Did this man scam millions out of Dillingham?

Sep 19, 2016

The feds say Floyd Jay Mann, Jr., of Puyallup, WA, stole and gambled away at least $2.7 million over four years. Most of his 15+ victims were from Dillingham.

Jay Mann, of Puyallup, WA, is an auto mechanic and painter who concocted an elaborate hoax to bilk millions from his victims, according to federal investigators.

KDLG: Over four years, Floyd Jay Mann, Jr., 54, of Puyallup, Washington, scammed at least $2.7 million from 15 or more victims, mostly from Alaska. That’s according to an indictment filed in the U.S. District Court of Alaska, following a lengthy investigation by the FBI, IRS, and Social Security Administration. Mann was arrested on September 8 in Washington, then released to ankle monitoring a few days later. Federal investigators say the money was largely gambled away at a casino, though Mann racked up $1 million in winnings. If convicted on the federal charges of wire fraud and money laundering, Mann could be sentenced to 20 years in jail.

Most of the victims of Mann’s elaborate hoax are from Dillingham, Alaska. More than a dozen who “invested” in Mann’s scheme have been identified through conversations over several months with police, friends, family, and associates of the victims, and speaking with several of the victims themselves. Federal investigators have not identified the victims, except one with whom Mann was frequently in phone contact, listed only as “P.D.”  The P.D. referred to is Peter Anthony DiMaggio of Anchorage or Palmer, who is now living with friends in Auburn, Washington. Mann’s connection to Dillingham was brother and sister John and Clara “Tookie” Wren, originally of Dillingham, who lived four doors down from the Manns on 148th Street Court East in Puyallup.

Who is Floyd Jay Mann?

The feds portray Floyd J. Mann, Jr., as the mastermind of a shrewd, clever scheme that successfully bilked millions out of his willing victims over several years. His alleged con involved forged court documents, fictitious lawsuits and disease, and co-conspirators who helped mislead, encourage, or intimate his “investors.” In reality, Floyd Mann, Jr., who goes by Jay, is a mechanic and auto painter by profession originally from Duluth, Minnesota. His wife Cheryl D. Mann, 51, has also been indicted on one charge of defrauding the Social Security Administration. They married in 1994 and raised four children in the suburbs on the south side of Puyallup.

“He’s an incredible guy, and a loving dad,” daughter Alisha Mann said. “He’s very trusting and wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Jay Mann worked in auto repair, detailing, and painting out of several locations around Puyallup. His daughter said he has not worked “in the trade for a while,” and that exposure to isocyanates had made him very ill. She professed to not know much about her father’s gambling habits. “I guess we knew he got lucky once in a while at the casino,” she said.

The house on 148th St. Ct E in Puyallup, Washington the Mann's have rented since 2011. Court records show the landlord has attempted to evict them.
Credit Google Maps

That federal agents had searched her parents’ home and charged them both with federal crimes had come as a shock. Asked about Jay Mann’s connection to Dillingham, Alisha Mann pointed out that John and Tookie Wren had been neighbors and “really close friends” of the family.

John, who died last year, was “friends with Peter DiMaggio,” she said. “When Peter came into our lives we were in a very bad place. He would come around a lot. He didn’t have a good vibe about him,” she said.

Public records suggest Jay and Cheryl Mann had money problems for years. Numerous landlords, including the Pierce County Housing Authority, sought court-ordered evictions of the Manns more than a dozen times since the 1990s. One landlord, who asked not to be identified, said the couple “always had a good story” for why they could not pay rent, and had extensively damaged the property. A few other creditors filed suit to claim small debts, and the state of Washington went after unpaid taxes on several occasions. Beyond that, Jay Mann has a few traffic tickets the local police department had trouble collecting on, and a 2002 charge for forgery of a prescription.

Jay and Cheryl Mann took a limo for a birthday dinner at Harbor Lights in Tacoma, WA, during the summer of 2012, not long after he allegedly began scamming money from victims in Dillingham.

The Scam

To his victims, Jay Mann was a sick, sympathetic figure soon to be a multi-millionaire. They believed the prescription drug Levaquin, an antibiotic used to treat certain infections, had given Mann cancer. His ongoing and costly medical treatments were necessary to keep him alive and ensure his massive payout, and theirs, too.

Mann convinced his victims that he was party to a successful $38 million class action lawsuit against pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. Further, he used a “false and forged” letter from the Supreme Court of Texas to show that “Pfizer Drug Corporation was the initial cause of [Mann’s] severe health complications,” and he stood to collect another $189 million in that settlement.

Even cursory internet searches could have shown victims that Levaquin is associated with Johnson & Johnson, not Pfizer, and “Pfizer Drug Corporation” is never used in reference to Pfizer, Inc., one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.

But Mann worked to preempt his victims from checking in on the facts beyond what he presented to them. They were told the court had imposed a “gag order” on the case, and they would be penalized if it was discussed or inquiries were made. Pfizer wanted him killed, Mann told them, and a private security firm and the FBI were protecting him.

The Manns posted pictures of some of their 2012 casino winnings on social media.

Adding to the intrigue and further shrouding the scam in secrecy, federal prosecutors allege Mann used co-conspirators to corroborate his hoax. They have not yet been named. According to the feds, one claimed to be Mann’s attorney on the successful class action lawsuit. Another claimed to be an FBI agent providing Mann’s security. A third pretended to be the judge overseeing the case, and a fourth was supposedly the lieutenant governor of Texas. Through phone calls and possibly in-person meetings, each spoke to the legitimacy of the case and the multi-million dollar settlement.

Mann’s “investors” believed it was their job to pay for the remaining medical bills and legal fees, as the cash settlement would not be released by the court until he had a “clean bill of health.” They were promised a significant return on their money.

None of this was true, according to findings from a lengthy federal investigation. Mann did not have cancer, there was no lawsuit, he was not awarded any settlement, nor did the money he received from his victims over at least four years go towards paying any related bills.

Instead, he used his victims like an ATM, text messaging when he needed cash supposedly for legal fees and medical bills. Fearful of penalties for delays, the victims quickly pooled money and wired it to Mann. He gambled $2.7 million of his victims’ money at a casino, winning $1 million in jackpots over the years.

The Victims

John and Clara “Tookie” Wren, originally from Dillingham, lived just a few doors down from the Manns on 148th Street Court East in Puyallup. The Manns moved to that house in 2011 and became close friends with the Wrens. John Wren, who died late in 2015, likely introduced Peter DiMaggio to Jay Mann. The Wrens and DiMaggio may have been Mann’s earliest victims, and all three appear to have lost significant amounts of money.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dillingham, where many of Jay Mann's scam victims attend.

Tookie Wren is a faithful member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, as are most of the other victims in Dillingham, some of whom are Tookie’s relatives.

“Many, if not most of them, thought they were helping this individual who was supposedly in dire health,” said Howard Williams, the pastor of Dillingham’s Seventh-day Adventist church. Williams said he and other church members struggled with how to counsel fellow members of the congregation as they watched them contribute enormous sums over several years. Now that Mann has been indicted, the church is embracing them as they recover.

“I’d say their attitudes right now are probably better than would be expected, though some are certainly angry,” said Williams.

A few individuals made one or two-time contributions, described as similar to a gambler’s bet where a loss could be anticipated but a win might pay big. Another core group of probably less than ten invested heavily over the course of the scam. The toll it has taken on their lives and finances may never be fully unraveled, nor is it necessarily possible to untangle prior money problems from those incurred over years of “investing” in Mann. However, of the core group, since 2012 several have now closed small businesses, several have been in arrears on city taxes, one lost all his rental properties to foreclosure, and another was fired from his employers for suspected embezzlement.

Friends and associates of the victims say they have watched as their attitudes changed over four years. First, there was an early optimism, and the offer to get in on the investment was extended to others. As money problems mounted, victims promised their debtors that a big payday was right around the corner. In the face of growing skepticism and voiced concerns, victims became increasingly secretive and defensive. In the end, as police and FBI began to intervene, a deflated hopelessness took root. One friend said of a victim, “She told me she was in so far, she might as well just ride it out to the end, just in case it might still be true.”

Dillingham Police Chief Dan Pasquariello made rounds with the victims in the summer of 2014, after a person emailed a lengthy complaint to police, suspecting her friends were being scammed.

“Some people were cooperative and explained what they believed was an investment opportunity. Some people were downright hostile to us when we were questioning them about this scheme. And other people feigned ignorance,” said Pasquariello. “We talked to all those people, and we informed them it was probably not a legitimate investment, and they were most likely being scammed.”

The money kept flowing from Dillingham through the spring of 2016, despite the police intervention and two visits by FBI agents who were, by 2015 at least, investigating Mann for wire fraud and money laundering.

Assistant U.S. attorney Aunnie Steward presented the case to the grand jury in Anchorage. She believes Mann was successful in his multi-million dollar scam on account of his victims’ ties to one another and their inclinations to help a person like Jay Mann.

“When someone who is perpetrating a scheme like this is able to appeal for charitable purposes, in this case it was to help somebody with medical bills, also if it’s your neighbors and friends that are involved in it, you’re going to trust that more than if a stranger comes and asks you.”

Cheryl D. Mann posts many pictures of herself driving her blue Mustang on social media. Federal investigators allege she was claiming tens of thousands of dollars in need-based Social Security payments while winning hundreds of thousands at a casino.

Catching the crook

As mentioned, Dillingham police were tipped off to the suspected scam by email in 2014. The details provided by the cooperative victims were scant, though Chief Pasquariello says he heard the name “Jay Mann of Washington” mentioned. The Department had neither the resources nor the jurisdiction to pursue the matter beyond his advice to the victims to back away.

Jay Mann was assigned an inmate number and held at the SeaTac Federal Detention Center after his arrest.
Credit Federal Bureau of Prisons

The FBI, IRS, and Social Security Administration began a separate, lengthy investigation into Jay and Cheryl Mann. It seems likely the income from gambling, coupled with need-based Social Security claims, may have caught the attention of the feds sooner than any tips about defrauded victims in Alaska. But as for details about when the investigation began or what triggered it, so far they are keeping their cards close to the chest.

“What I can say is that it took a lot of effort by the IRS, the FBI, and the Social Security Administration to put all the pieces together,” said Steward. “They did a very good job of that to present this case to the grand jury and return an indictment.”

As the net tightened around the Manns this spring, FBI agents made at least their second trip to Dillingham to interview known victims and seek out others. They informed a village corporation that its bookkeeper was a victim and warned about his access to the corporation’s funds. The Mann’s home was raided by agents who seized their phones and other evidence. The case against Jay Mann was presented to an Anchorage grand jury, and the case against Cheryl Mann to a grand jury in Western Washington.

“He’s been charged with eleven counts of wire fraud and eight counts of money laundering. The maximum penalty is 20 years in jail and a $500,000 fine,” said Steward. Cheryl Mann has been charged with one count of Social Security fraud and could be sentenced to five years in prison and fined up to $250,000. The indictment claims she collected $56,000 in need-based Social Security payments during a period of time she won $125,000 at an area casino.

Where did Mann gamble at, what was his game of choice, and what happened to the earnings? Are any of the victims or co-conspirators now witnesses, or will any others be charged? Did local police or local banking officials, or tips, help federal officials catch Jay and Cheryl Mann? Steward says her office is not prepared to offer any more information, yet. If the case is presented at trial or the Manns take a plea deal, more facts will emerge.

If Mann is convicted, restitution for his victims will likely be a part of the judgement, though Steward acknowledges actual payments may be unlikely.  

“If there is any money to recover, we will make our best efforts to do so,” she said.

Even before this case goes to trial, now that it has emerged publicly it at least serves as yet another cautionary tale that people are always looking for new ways to scam others out of their money.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is,” said Steward. “And if there’s any suspicion that that’s the case, then make sure lots of questions are asked, research is done. If you have friends or family that you think might be involved in something like this, really dig in and help look at what’s going on and make sure that people aren’t being taken advantage of.”

Floyd Jay Mann, Jr., is due in Anchorage for a court hearing on September 22. Jay and Cheryl Mann did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Reach the author at dave@kdlg.org or 907.842.5281.