Con artist pretends to be Penn student

Eugene Tinsley is banned from College Houses after being charged with theft, forgery

· September 29, 2011, 1:11 am   ·  Updated September 30, 2011, 1:14 am

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College junior Zach King was introduced to Eugene Tinsley last year. They became friends, and Tinsley “came around more and more,” eventually living in King’s off-campus house without paying rent, essentially “squatting,” King said.

However, King never really considered the possibility that Tinsley wasn’t a Penn student.

After going to court in late June, Tinsley pled guilty this year to two counts each of theft, forgery, receiving stolen property and securing execution of documents by deception. King and another student brought charges against him in the case.

“I always kind of knew there was something weird about it,” but never really thought twice, King said.

“There are con artists in the world. Every couple of years something [like this] pops up,” Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said. “[Tinsley is] a specialist and very good at what he does.”

Tinsley pretended he was a graduate student at Penn, even becoming the pledgemaster at the pre-med fraternity. Some nights, Tinsley would even “come home and write papers,” King said.

After not receiving rent from Tinsley for several months, King and his roommates “nicely kicked him out,” King said. Tinsley left for a period of time before moving back in with them around winter break last year. Later in the school year, when King went to buy gas for a trip, his card was denied, even though he knew he had enough money.

When Penn Police investigated the matter, King discovered Tinsley stole about $1,300 in checks from him. Tinsley also “involved another student who had been duped the same way,” King said.

A list of people forbidden from entering College Houses is kept with the staff at the Information Center — which Tinsley is now currently on — but it is confidential and students are not given access to this list, Rush said.

“We don’t want to burden students with someone who is not welcome at Penn,” she said. “That’s why we have the guards, we have the police, we work with [the College Houses].”

However, this doesn’t necessarily stop individuals like Tinsley from returning to campus.

When a Penn student signs someone into the building, the only person who can prevent them from doing so is the worker at the Information Center desk or the AlliedBarton security guard, according to AlliedBarton District Manager Sydney Toombs.

King reported seeing Tinsley on campus this year. Faculty members have also seen him on campus “as recently as move-in,” according to an email that Associate Director for College Houses Pamela Robinson sent to the House Deans at Penn.

Robinson noted Tinsley is “adept at perpetrating a false identity … and ingratiating himself to administrators,” prompting a Resident Adviser in Harrison College House to email his floor, “Be smart. Avoid this guy. Stay alive.”

Because the crimes for which Tinsley was arrested occurred off-campus, his probation does not forbid him from entering Penn’s campus, Chief of Penn Police Mark Dorsey said.

“People do have the right to freedom,” Dorsey explained.

While King said Tinsley apologized to him for his actions — and even introduced King to Tinsley’s mother — when he ran into him earlier this year, Dorsey emphasized that students need to be careful.

“He just preyed on people because it was so easy to come in and make friendships,” he said. “Make sure you know who your friends are.”

Staff writer Jennifer Sun contributed to the reporting of this article.

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