Woman says she is latest victim of alleged con man

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Gail O'Brien is a woman not easily fooled, but she believes she is one of the latest victims of a man who has preyed on people from coast to coast.

"I don't usually get bamboozled by people. I've done a lot of remodeling in my day, and have never had a problem before," she said.

Until, that is, she hired Hammer Time construction and a man named Richard Laughner.

"He's a con man and a thief," the 70-something Texan said.

O'Brien hired Laughner to remodel her son's home in Bettendorf, Iowa. That was back on October 13, 2013.

The house is still a mess, unfinished and without air conditioning or heat. What was done, needs re-fixing.

And Laughner, split.  He is nowhere to be found.

O'Brien had written checks to Laughner for $6,100, $4,500 and $3,500, to buy a granite countertop and other building materials.  There were other checks written along the way.

"But he never bought the stuff. Even though he lied to me, boldfaced, and said he had purchased that," O'Brien said.

All the while,  he was playing on her emotions. O'Brien's husband had recently died of an aggressive form of cancer. She told Laughner about her loss.

"He knew I had just recently lost someone I love very much to cancer; a terrible cancer. So, of course, part of his ploy to me was 'I've just been found to have Stage 2 colon cancer.'  He told me that, yes," O'Brien tearfully recalled. "All this stuff that he knew would hit me sympathetically."

What's amazing is, it's just the latest in a string of complaints about the Milan, Illinois man who also goes by the alias Richard Frankz.

"People have come forward, from Florida to California, who say he's talked them out of their life savings, and taken them for a ride to the tune of  hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time," O'Brien said.

Former business partners, customers, and romantic partners; many of whom have had to declare bankruptcy before they even knew what hit them.

"Four-hundred and eight thousand dollars. I lost everything but my house. He wiped me out," said Lanita West, who was engaged to Frankz until he dumped her one day, but not before opening credit cards in her name.

Related:  Women say country crooner conned them out of life savings

Some women admit they were too trusting, but say they were hustled right out of their life savings - saddled with credit card debt - while he went on spending sprees.   He bought a luxury boat, flew in a private plane and drove a Porsche.

"He scammed us, he took upwards of $200,000 in credit cards in my name, rented cars in my name, stole my mail; he turned my life into a disaster," said one of his alleged victims in Florida.

Several say they went to local and state authorities, and even to the FBI, but in every case, he's avoided criminal charges. All of the women say they were told it is a civil matter.

While many have successfully won judgements worth hundreds of thousands of dollars against him, they have never seen a dime.

"We went to the police and they would do nothing. They said it was a business deal gone bad," said another woman in Florida.

O'Brien says she is out $30,000,  and she figured out what the deal was after Googling him.

"He's conned people in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Illinois and now Iowa. But he's never been prosecuted.  But this is not a victimless crime," said O'Brien.

O'Brien went to file a report with the Bettendorf Police department. A detective looked into the matter, but told her the county attorney's office believed it, too, was "a civil matter."

O'Brien, who was married to a circuit court judge, disagrees.

"Taking that money and using it personally? To me that is fraud or misappropriation of funds," she said.

It appears Laughner hit hard times recently. He and his wife were in the process of divorcing. She moved to Carmel, California. Their nice home in Milan is still up for sale, and Laughner was living in a rundown apartment complex in East Moline. But he's gone now, with no forwarding address.

O'Brien says Laughner has texted her a couple of times, telling her "checks are in the mail," and that he's taken off for California for "treatment."

She doesn't buy it, and doesn't understand why he's allowed to fly under law enforcement radar, time and time again.

"It's very disheartening to me. I decided I'll sacrifice my pride; I got bamboozled by him," O'Brien said.  "I just think he needs to be stopped before he hurts somebody else. I just hate to see people get scammed, and I'm willing to sacrifice myself if we can get some justice."


  • Betsy albritton

    Renae Frank is another victim I know she lost $250000.00 This guy needs to rot in jail!!!”!!!!

  • Tina C

    This man is scum. Plain and simple. He is a con artist par excellent! He took me for for several thousand dollars plus a $9000 judgement against me. All because I trusted him. Never again! A warning to anyone who might know a Richard Laughner, AKA Richard Frankz, AKA Richard Laugher-Frankz…RUN AWAY AS FAST AS YOU CAN! He lies as easily as he breathes.

  • M. V

    A great story! For everyone’s information Renae Crevalle-Laughner Frankz has up and moved as stated in the article to Monterey/Carmel CA and is now living with the pilot who flew the plane for Richard and Renae. The same plane she is photographed in and nearby. Also the home in Milan is in a pending sale with Mel Foster Realty and it seems the divorce has escalated and become nasty. Even to the point of bank records being shared with other parties on social media pages. This story does have a lot of twists and turns.

  • Barbara Goodman

    Yes M.V. There are a lot of twist and turns especially since Richard is now living with you as stated in a letter circulated by a close family member of yours. Also, it seems that he is right where he needs to be since you M Michele Vitals are the daughter of the St Louis Mob Boss John Joseph Vitale as stated on Wiki. You just keep trying to put the blame on Renae when she had nothing to do with his scamming. She herself is a victim after losing $250, 000 cash and $40,000 in jewelry that she had before she met Richard. Now she’s fighting for a car she has owned for 30 years that he is claiming she gave him as a gift. But anyway, here is the letter:
    My name is Whitney Reynolds, and although we don’t know each other, I was able to see your posts in the News/Frankz/Crevalle site, so I wanted to take a quick second and reach out to you. I recently reached out to Pep Weeks, who was the “admin” of this group about my knowledge of Richard’s whereabouts, thinking Pep was the right person to contact. I may have been mistaken, as I never heard back from him, but I am led to believe now (based on some recent events) that Richard was indeed Pep. This is of course still a guess, but I need to share the information I have with someone else besides him so that it can be shared with as many as possible, and justice served. You are probably wondering how I am connected to Laughner in the first place…. I have (HAD) a close relationship with one of the Richard Frankz Group members, Michelle Vitale. She was someone I considered to be my aunt, but she is clearly a very sick person, and needs as much help as Laugher does. That said Michelle was one of the (very active) group members in the Frankz/Crevalle group. Michelle was taken advantage of by this scumbag a few years back, which left her living in a motel and completely destitute. A story, I am SURE, you are aware of by now, and have probably heard similar tales time and again… if not experienced it yourself. Anyway, I thought it necessary to let you know that in spite of Michelle’s continued involvement and “concern” for the other group members in finding justice against this notorious duo, Michelle is now dating, living with AND in a romantic relationship with Richard Laughner once again! He is living with her and her daughter in the motel her put her in… ironically enough! My mother and I have warned her about how insane she is for even looking down this rabbit hole (much less leaping in head first), and that she is not only disgracing herself, but a complete hypocrite to any woman who has struggled through the muck with this insane Bonnie and Clyde! I truly believe that she is just as sick as he is… otherwise why would she be with him again, and trying to help him avoid justice?? It could very well be desperation, but regardless it is dangerous, and I think the group has the right to know WHO and WHAT they are really dealing with! As you can tell, this whole situation upsets me greatly, and it will continue to do so until Michelle gets her shit together! I have known her my entire life (as my pseudo-aunt) and it pains me to watch her sink like a ship once again. Even if you choose to do nothing with the info, I wanted for the truth to be shared. Thanks, Whitney P.S. There is a divorce battle between Richard and Renae right now, and he is trying to paint her as the single villain, like he was forced by her to take advantage of all these women! It’s appalling! They are staying in North County, MO at America’s Best Value Inn on St. Charles Rock Rd. In case you still wanted to know where he was…. Hope this helps everyone’s journey to justice.

  • M. V

    Dear Ms Goodman, I must say it does surprise me you would try to attack me personally as you know nothing about me , we have never met, however I DID meet Richard Laughner, and I did have very colorful conversations with Renae when I found out they were together, she was quite privileged to our relationship, she even went so far as to threaten to post correspondence and photos between Richard Laughner and myself. I find it ironic, her having found “out” that as stated in the Rock Island court records she remained married to him another 2+ years. I also find it insulting to woman everywhere to think that once the story was released in 2012 on Richard she remained married to him hearing all the allegations, all the other men and woman, families that where involved with these two. As a matter of fact Ms Goodman, I am a true victim. My stupidity and trust did leave me homeless and living in a hotel with a child. I will however have to say during my times believing him my integrity still remained, I did not live off the proceeds enjoying a $319.000.00 home, flying in a private plane and elaborate shopping spree’s as Chris Minor stated. You state Renae is a victim??? GET REAL!!! I do not believe for one moment that any of the WQAD viewers believe that one woman could be so oblivious to the situation, especially one that claims abuse and yet still to this day profits off his name “Frankz”. Only one other thing to add, I believe Renae states she was an abused woman, a virtual prisoner, allowed no friends or contact with the outside world, just one question to the viewers of WQAD??? Where the heck did you come from and how is it you know so much personal information? Are you two one??? Chris Minor, please forgive me for maybe over-stepping my boundaries however I have been attacked by Renae Crevalle and her present employer and co-workers, numerous made up Facebook profiles, my place of employment has been harassed, derogatory allegations made about me all because I am standing up for the truth to be known. Once again Chris please forgive me but I will NOT lay down for this anymore!!!

    • Jimmy Crack Corn

      Uhhh… so according to you, M.V., you were shackin’ up with this dude and you knew was married?? You’re quite a piece of work, too! People who live in glass houses, ya know… lol

  • Barbara Goodman

    M.V. You started everything by creating FaceBook pages about Renae filled with lies. YOU called her employers. YOU called everyone associated with dog related businesses to stop anyone from hiring her. YOU harassed her employer. YOU posted things about her and the people she works with on FaceBook. When her employer and her friends decided to fight fire with fire, now you don’t like it. Since you are now in a romantic relationship with Richard, did he tell you that during those two years you speak about, her sister was dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease? No probably not. Renae bought that house before she married him. She sold a lucrative business in order to do so. You are a stalker, a cyber bully and an abuser of abused women. You NEVER met Renae, but yet you accuse her. You have no idea of what she went through, you weren’t with her behind closed doors. But now you’ll have your own behind closed door moments with Richard.

  • James

    It is absolutely amazing that a man of such mendacity ,avarice. and duplicity can do these horrible things to so many women Renae has indeed been victimized to the tune of at LEAST 250,000.00 comprised of the proceeds from her previously owned business , her 401k, savings , and years of accumulated jewelry and if that wasn’t bad enough he has the nerve to try to swindle her out of her Porsche which she has owned since the mid eighties…… Well over 25 years before she had the misfortune of meeting this evil con artist, and even with those unbelievably atrocities, he attempts to try and further bamboozle the public at large by claiming Thad somehow HE is the victim !!!

    Only a pathological liar could behave so remorselessly I have no doubt that this is a very dangerous guy who should be behind bars as that is the only way that more women will not fall victim as long as he is allowed to remain on the loose !

  • West Merilee

    Michelle Vitale is a bitter,old, used up douchbag that is in love with Richard and is shacking up with him as we speak in a seedy motel, Amercas Best Value Inns and Suites, in Bridgeton , Missouri . She is angry because he is all over the country laying the wood to anything with a checkbook . I have some advice for you MV… GFY!!!

  • West Merilee

    Hey Michelle Jacobs -Anderson , I clicked on your link above….and the first thing that comes up is a great review for Renae crevalle photography business. Not sure what your point is ?? But thanks for the tip!

  • Victim of Vitale

    FYI Chris Minor,
    M Michele Vitale harassed me at my place of employment for several months simply because I asked for proof of Renae ‘s involvement . Which by the way, she has zero proof of any. Vitale proved herself to very unstable. Her relentless harassing and trying to get ME fired, finally ended when she and her partner in crime, co-worker, Leland Marshall, were exposed when they failed to turn off the locator on their computer. They were harassing us from their place of work, Amercas Best Value inns and suites. When they were finally caught, they begged us to drop it as they were concerned about loosing their jobs! You want a good story Chris Minor? Well when you hear about all the sick and twisted behavior from this demented group( Vitale , Richard , Leland ) , boy could I fill your ear!!

  • Lynn M.

    In response to M.V. (Michelle Vitale), I want to state that I work in the
    animal field on the Monterey Peninsula and my business received several
    phone calls and messages from one, “Michelle Vitale” and a man named Leland, as well as
    others that participated in this Witch Hunt for his soon-to-be ex wife, Renae.
    I’ve seen all the Facebook pages long before the majority of
    them were taken down and YOU, Michelle Vitale, along
    with “Pep Weeks”, who is now known to be Richard Laughner himself,
    participated in a very ugly demonstration of slander and defamation of
    character towards an innocent woman. This is an extremely close animal
    community and I can say that every single business in this area that
    has anything to do with animals was contacted by YOU, Michelle,
    personally. Don’t for one second think that we ALL haven’t saved all
    the emails, messages and Facebook posts directly from you. You might
    want to think twice before you not only continue this pathetic and
    shameless behavior but you REALLY ought to re-think your desperate need
    for love as to be back in a ‘relationship’ with this horrid man.
    I’ve done my homework and his wife, Renae, is a victim as well.
    I hope that the reporter, Chris Minor, sets her sights on you,
    Michelle, because You are the one who is involved with Richard.
    It’s only a matter of time before you both get what you deserve.

  • SSmalls

    Lynn M., Lynn Mayfield whomever you may be…I have private messages back from Nov 2013 you coming to Renae’s defense then. You stated then you lived in Davenport and knew Renae from The Teagarden era, it is very nice to see that you have up and moved to Monterey Ca with Renae Crevalle. If you are such a pillar in the Monterey community why is it you could not aid in her defense with the organizations that denied her association with them when she 1st arrived? All you women which we all know is Renae herself, coming to her defense know merely shows there is so much truth to the allegations being brought against her. Chris Minor showed documentation of luxurious spending spree’s on bra’s, Bottega Veneta items, arm and arm on a luxury boat, to now we find out a Porsch is included in the list of assets. If this car is yours of 30 years???? Oh excuse me, why is Renae stating she is fighting for it in the divorce? The bottom line here is….Lynn M, they are both as guilty as sin! And Renae just does not like the fact that the heat is on both of them. And if she had sold such a lucrative business how is it that the Rock Island CO records department shows the house was in foreclosure for almost 2 years? Something just does not really add up here! I’m inclined to believe Chris Minor that it is time to see both of them and their involvement and not a bunch of woman, who are all the same, sitting around the campfire making up false profiles in her defense. So Ms M/Lynn Mayfield why don’t you do us all a favor prove your credibility and state which dog foundation you are affiliated with in Monterey? Chris Minor, Thanks for the great story! It is an insult to woman all over the country that this lady has claimed abuse, innocence and that she was a victim, she was married to the man for God sake’s, if her life was so bad she should have gotten out along time ago rather than post photo’s of luxurious trips. One other question for Chris Minor…they are claiming that they have all these assets they are fighting over in court…can not this judgement that Ms Lenita West has be allowed to supersede and collect all these assets ?

    • Lynn M.

      First of all, Ms. Smalls, I never stated that I lived in Davenport and
      by no means did I once say that I knew Renae. I have lived on the
      Monterey Peninsula for over 25 years and am well known amongst all the
      Veterinary hospitals, rescue groups and groomers. It wasn’t until WE,
      as an animal community became sick and tired of hearing about clients
      of businesses, advertisers and supporters of shops, employees and
      business owners all being harassed ruthlessly by your little facebook
      linch mob, did we have the majority of facebook pages taken down and
      take a stand against you. Authorities are also very aware of the
      situation. What you are all doing is wrong. Many people here have
      looked into this story and there have been no charges against Renae,
      anywhere at any time. I did send a message to two of the victims of
      Richard, warning them that the so-called “Pep Weeks” that has been
      posing as a victim and still has a Facebook group that bashes Renae and
      ONLY Renae, is actually Richard Laughner, himself. All of you women
      fell right into his trap to persecute Renae and to take the focus on
      himself. He has you under his thumb and slipped right back into your
      Facebook pages.
      Fool you twice…
      …and THAT, Samantha Smalls, is an insult to women.

  • B.G.

    That was not a luxury boat, it was a 1973 house boat owned by a friend that took Renae’s dying sister on a trip up the Mississippi because being from Miami, her sister had never seen the fall colors. It was the last time her sister was able to travel. She’s fighting for the car of 30 years because Richard forced her with force to sign the title and two days after the Order of Protection, he transferred title….So you see Ms Smalls you do not have all the facts. Again, Renae has no criminal record while Richard’s is a mile long.

  • SSmalls

    Thank you B.G. for the information and getting back so quickly, I could care less who’s more guilty than the other, all I care about is assets that Richard and Renae have and what they are worth. You all are so consumed with making Renae look like the innocent victim that you have given alot of us information on whom owns what. Thank you for that useful information as I will be forwarding it to the relevant parties. I believe they both deserve to loose everything. Have a great evening.

    • Victim of Vitale

      First of all , Samantha Smalls, you say you don’t care who’s more guilty? Really ?? You are so transparent .. YOU are the one consumed with trying to make Renae look guilty!! You and your little group of crazy , desperate, and obviously lonely women have absolutely nothing on Renae or you would reported it to the ‘relevant parties ‘… And these so called ‘relevant parties’ would have already done something. You crackpots got Nothin’ !!!! But thanks again for providing the pet industry in the Monterey area with so much entertainment !! Keep it coming you Pshyco’s!!!… Cuz we are all laughing at you!!! Blahahahahaha!!!!!

  • Victim of Vitale

    The best part is how hard all you nut jobs tried to get Renae fired.. Must have been frustrating after so many months of trying and to no avail..frankly, over here on the west coast , we could careless about you losers over there and the fact that you lost your money to this con man. Maybe next time you idiots lay down with some tool you meet on the internet, you’ll hide your checkbook and credit cards. Wise up dumbasses

  • Garlic Breath

    Really funny comments! Someone needs to write a screenplay !! The con man is not that attractive. Not sure how he got away with it. I feel bad for latest victim, but those other broads , well ….

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