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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sociopath alert: Robert McMahon

The NY Post ran the following article this morning:

Brooklyn bum fakes war wound for cash

Semper fake!

For years, Brooklyn commuters have opened their wallets for Robert McMahon, handing cash to this heroic and heartbreaking figure, a Vietnam vet in combat fatigues, his left arm missing and his right leg crippled, as he panhandles on Ocean Parkway in Kensington.

He plays to their patriotism, having scrawled his nickname, "Rambo," on the back of his camouflage jacket, along with his years of service with the Marines and two stints in 'Nam that saw heavy action. The top of his empty left sleeve is pinned to his uniform shoulder, and he drags his bum leg behind him.

Robert Mc Mahon appears an arm short.
Photos: Alex Rud
Robert Mc Mahon appears an arm short.
While begging for cash in Brooklyn, he plays up his phony stints in Vietnam.
While begging for cash in Brooklyn, he plays up his phony stints in Vietnam.
At day's end, he counts his cash - with both fully functioning arms.
At day's end, he counts his cash - with both fully functioning arms.
When drivers stop for red lights, McMahon, 53, hobbles over and salutes gallantly, juggling a paper cup and a cardboard sign that reads, "Vietnam vet." They give freely.

They are being scammed.

McMahon has two arms -- and was seen using them last week to count the wads of cash he took off kindhearted New Yorkers.

He is not crippled, as was readily apparent when he swiftly dodged inquiring Post reporters.

And it seems he never served in the Marines nor in Vietnam, according to Corps and Veterans Administration officials who could not find any record of him...

Tuesday, The Post spotted the bearded, one-armed bandit at 4:30 p.m. at Ocean and Foster Avenue, where he limped over to the windows of idling vehicles and held up his cup. Many gave dollar bills. He yelled an expletive at a driver who turned him away.

At 5:09 p.m., McMahon quit for the day, darted across Ocean Parkway's seven lanes with surprising agility and walked briskly east along Foster. Two blocks later, McMahon adjusted himself and quickly thrust his left arm out from under his jacket. He used both hands to count his cash.

When he realized a photographer was taking his picture, McMahon tried to hide his left arm by putting it behind his back, then spat and screamed obscenities at the lensman, threatening to kill him. "I'll put a bullet in the back of your head," he howled....

Most people, when caught red-handed in a lie, display some sort of contriteness, or at the very least, embarrassment. Only a sociopath gets angry. (Remember Bill Clinton wagging his finger at his accuser and angrily saying, "I did not have sex with that woman"?)

But we didn't even have to see that particular behavior to be apprised of McMahon's sociopathy. The essence of sociopathy is dishonesty, and there is no form of dishonesty more manipulative than to pose as something one is not, in order to gain either plaudits or sympathy. But McMahon poses as an armless man. A cripple. And a Viet Nam vet. None of which he is. All to manipulate others' emotions and take advantage of them.

(Where else have we heard this recently? Oh, that's right, Richard Blumenthal, who is running for U.S. Senator. Of course, he doesn't want your money, just your vote.)

Most of us would be too ashamed to cadge money -- or votes -- from strangers under such false pretexts. We'd also be fearful of the hatred which would accrue were we caught. But sociopaths don't feel shame, nor are they fearful of social censure.

That is the key to the behavior of more people than you realize. Next time you come across someone who gets angry when you catch them red-handed, be aware that they have a whole list of other loathsome traits which you really don't want to uncover one by one. They are impulsive, disloyal, extremely manipulative, and wildly egotistical and egocentric. Most importantly, no matter now much they pretend otherwise, they care no more for you than you care for the well-being of the meat on your plate. 
Which is basically how they regard you.


Anonymous said...

Pretty good scam though it was going so well for him that he got lazy about it.

John Craig said...

It actually is a pretty good scam; I have to wonder how much money he took in over the years. Can't say I'm unhappy he got caught though.

Anonymous said...

It helped that he's an old-ish looking 53 year old. At 53 he wouldn't have turned 18 until 1975, the year when Saigon fell. Not that people can guess middle-aged people's ages precisely. Or anyone else's for that matter. College students now look 14 to me.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I see a panhandler I always wonder if begging is truly the only way they can earn money or if they're simply lazy, an addict or like McMahon, a swindler. My guilt usually gets the better of me and I end up contributing, especially if the traffic light happens to turn and I'm stuck sitting right next to the guy. It'll be interesting to see how long it takes McMahon to get back to collecting handouts (I would guess not long if he's been doing if for years) and whether the Post's story affects his earnings at all, even in the short run.

John Craig said...

No reason for you to feel guilty unless it was you who put him in that position.

I have to think that the Post article will affect his earnings, at least in the short run. What I would guess would happen is that he'll take his act elsewhere, maybe even to an entirely new metropolis.