Josh Macciello never had the "gold mines" that impressed ESPN sports talk hosts Steve Mason and John Ireland, other sports media types and some bloggers. They don't exist. He did have a felony arrest-and-plead for possessing 3,000 Vicodin, a bunch of tales about Hollywood movie deals yadda yadda yadda that didn't check out, and a trail of unhappy ex-associates through the years. No other journalist took the time to confirm Macciello's claim to millionaire status past the first line of defense. They swallowed the easy story line that here was a fan, an amazing nobody, who was somehow going to put two billion dollars into buying the Dodgers. Only the LA Weekly's Gene Maddaus demanded proof, called people on their bluffs and came up with a heck of story. Of course he got threatened repeatedly with legal action by Macciello.
As it turns out, Macciello was never a real contender for the team. He is, instead, a fraud. Despite what he's told reporter after reporter, and despite what those journalists have dutifully repeated, he does not have billions of dollars. He does not have rights to any gold mines. He is, instead, a convicted drug dealer and a huckster who has used his talents to persuade many people — not just journalists — to place their confidence in him. In his wake he has left a string of abandoned projects and broken promises.
The Dodger play is his boldest stunt so far. And, judged strictly as a bid for attention, it was a fantastic success. Reporters and fans ate up the tale of the regular guy who wanted to buy the team. Never mind the gaping holes in that narrative: At the end of the day, it was a great story.
It is now. A true page turner. Kudos to Maddaus.
It can't be a good day for ESPN LA reporter Ramona Shelburne, who reported in January that she spent a month vetting Macciello's claims. In the end the best she could do was fall back on the old "on the one hand this, on the other hand that" wringing of hands that reporters turn to when they fail to get the story. "At the end of all this I suppose I'm more curious than skeptical," she wrote at the conclusion of her investigation. "Josh Macciello mostly appears to be who he says he is." On the radio she went further, telling Mason and Ireland: "This guy, I honestly think, is just a guy who came into a lot of money and thinks it might be cool [to own the team]. There's something endearing about that." Ouch.
She's not out there alone.
Steve Mason ESPN Radio: "It's not a hoax. Believe me, this guy doesn't get on the air without passing a vetting process. We're not gonna risk our reputation."
Kathleen Miles of the Huffington Post enthused about Macciello for several grafs then covered herself: "While it's somewhat refreshing to have an outsider stand up to insiders, we're not sure if he's being phony or true blue."
Mike Szymanski of Studio City Patch bought everything, apparently: "He came into money over the past five years through gold mines in the Pacific Northwest, and through his entertainment company Armital Entertainment. ESPN and other journalists have poked and pried into his history and personal life for months trying to find out if he is for real. They could find no hoax."
Previously on LA Observed:
Some guy in the Valley wants to buy the Dodgers
Photo of Macciello: Ted Soqui on the LA Weekly home page