Dandy Rotten Scoundrel

Michael Manos was living the same lie that he peddled across the country. But in San Francisco, the truth caught up with him.

On Jan. 13, Manos returned to Dallas to gather his belongings and met Hezlep to discuss restarting SFR in San Francisco or Los Angeles, where there were greater opportunities, he said. Besides, with his cousin, Thome, and Ek on his trail, they had to leave right away. As Hezlep recalls, "He said that this was heating up to the point that he would rather move the business to L.A. or San Francisco, where the opportunities were greater than in Dallas." They mulled the two options during the long drive west. "We ultimately decided on San Francisco because it's more his style in terms of being a quasi-European city than L.A., and it's easier to get around without wheels," Hezlep says.

Thome says that Manos began sending her threatening texts. "He kept telling me that he was in town, that he was watching me, that he was pulling my phone records," she says. Word circulated among Manos' business partners that he'd left Dallas, and McCulley, a private investigator, began piecing together details of Manos' unseemly past.

As McCulley recalls it, the night of Manos' arrest played out in high Hollywood drama. Thome had been in touch with Hezlep's parents, and learned he was in a San Francisco hotel with his friend "Mike." Thome passed the details to McCulley, who immediately began looking up hotels online. He phoned several, asking if anyone had checked in with a black Lab that night, and after confirming that the Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf had a guest named Doug Hezlep, he warned the hotel manager that he had a guest who was running from the law.

Michael Manos hid behind a series of aliases during his life as a fugitive, but he could never keep a low profile.
Brett Vander
Michael Manos hid behind a series of aliases during his life as a fugitive, but he could never keep a low profile.
On Jan. 20, a team of U.S. marshals caught up with Manos in his room at the Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf Hotel.
Eartha L. Goodwin
On Jan. 20, a team of U.S. marshals caught up with Manos in his room at the Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf Hotel.

In the hotel room half an hour later, Hezlep opened the door to six U.S. marshals and a corrections official, who entered the room and handcuffed the pair but shortly released Hezlep. Although the marshals had shut Mimi on the balcony, where she barked as they searched the room, Manos persuaded them to let her in. He kissed her goodbye as they led him away.

Manos was questioned by the Secret Service, and after five years running from the specter of prison, he was returned to a life behind bars in the San Francisco County Jail, where he spent nearly a month before his extradition to New York.

On Jan. 22, The Dallas Morning News broke the story that con artist Michael Manos had been caught in San Francisco after trying to steal from celebrities and charities in Dallas. Petrie filed a complaint against Manos for $70,000 in unauthorized charges to his credit card, though he now says he has settled the issue with American Express and is not interested in pressing charges.

Rumors swirled across Alexander's Facebook page, where Manos' business partners in Dallas, Atlanta, and New York united to share stories. Thome and Ek were among those posting updates, detailing what had driven Manos out of their city.

Manos maintains the stories about him are all overblown, the product of Bayone and Alexander feeding speculation about his true identity. Now that he's been caught, he says, "I gained my freedom and my life back."

Still, the law may not be done with Michael Manos. Dallas detectives may still pursue credit-card abuse charges based on Petrie's complaint, plus a felony charge arising from Manos' use of a false name on the Ashton rental form. In San Francisco, where impersonation charges were brought against Manos and then dropped, the district attorney's office might still pick up charges if it can find the real Mordan Stefanov. In Atlanta, perhaps most seriously, ongoing investigations into CDM International's finances could spoil Manos' plans to live freely under his real name. If the authorities want to question him now, they know where to find him. He currently resides in the Dutchess County jail, back home in Poughkeepsie.

He's working on a book, he says, and has an agent shopping it around. "Think Jackie Collins with a mixture of reality," he says. Manos says he finished the first chapter about getting arrested in San Francisco the night of his parole hearing. And for busting parole, which sparked the cross-country cons, aliases, and a fugitive life of glamour, Manos received only a 12-month sentence.

He awaits a move upstate where he'll spend the rest of the year in prison, but is already making plans for the parties he'll throw once he gets out. Mordan Stefanov may be finished in Dallas, but Michael Manos is looking forward to returning and picking up where he left off.

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