Longform

Friends with Benefits

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"You may not have any money, but you always need people," Shah loved to say.

"I didn't expect that there were people like him in the world," says Martin, who has yet to file any charges against Shah.
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Jennifer Estopinal says that for the five days following the bizarre scene in Dr. Siegler's office, her dad was incommunicado. She was in the throes of her daughter's health emergency at the time, so all she could do was phone her dad. But every time she would call, Ginger would answer the phone and say that her dad was "unavailable."

On the fifth day, Estopinal finally made it over there, and found her dad in a groggy state. He told her that he didn't remember a thing since they'd all been in the doctor's office. He says he felt like he'd been asleep the whole time, but had vague memories of seeing Shah and another man rifling through his papers in his bedroom.

"My theory was, and I never could prove this, was that he was overmedicating him," Anderson says. Anderson took this theory to lab specialists and toxicology experts, who told him there wasn't much they could do. An FBI lab specialist told him that too much time had elapsed and that they would need to know what they were looking for. "If he was overmedicating him, there wouldn't be a way to tell unless they examined him right then and there," Anderson says. "So we could never hang our hat on that, but if I had to put my money on it, yeah, I think he's that diabolical where he would do that."

Anderson also says that at the end of those five days, on August 11, Shah drove out to Memorial Oaks Cemetery, a Westside graveyard in which Jackson had purchased a plot in the early 1960s. Once there, Shah told cemetery manager Jeff Moss that he was a New York attorney representing Ginger Jackson and the whole Jackson family. He went on to say that he was interested in arranging Jackson's funeral, and that he would come back soon to pay. Moss called Shah back to inquire about payment a day later, whereupon Shah yelled that Moss should "stop bothering him." Moss was shocked by the shift in Shah's demeanor.

Meanwhile, Shah had found out that Estopinal was investigating him, and he was none too happy to hear about it. Estopinal says that a furious Shah called Jackson the day after he had gone to the cemetery. "My dad said it was a half-hour rant all about me," Estopinal remembers. "He told my dad, 'You tell Jenny to back off or I will have her stopped!'" Estopinal says her dad interpreted it as a death threat.

And that kicked her into high gear. Within a day or two, she'd found the Johnson case online and talked to Paul Clote. Shah was no longer welcome at her dad's bedside.

The postscript came two weeks later when Jackson's phone rang. It was Moss out at the cemetery, inquiring about their payment. Jackson was bewildered. Moss told him that his attorney had been out there recently and set up his burial, but then never returned to pay them. "What are you talking about?" he asked. "I'm alive and well and not about to croak anytime soon." Jackson called his daughter and asked if she was sitting down. "You're not gonna believe this," he told Estopinal. "Shah was out at Memorial Oaks posing as my attorney, and he told them that my death was imminent and he was making my funeral arrangements."

That was when they took matters to the police. Almost immediately after Shah was out of his life, Kenneth Jackson's health started to improve.

Anderson just shakes his head at Shah's stupidity over the cemetery ploy. "[Jackson] was a nice old guy and I enjoyed trading stories with him, but he didn't have long for this world," Anderson says. "If Shah could have waited, just stayed there and got in his good graces and not push it along at all, I would bet you that Ken Jackson would have given him some money, because he was sittin' on quite a bit even though he was living in that old raggedy house. He didn't spend anything. He kept it all."

After talking to Moss and Siegler, Anderson had enough to charge Shah with twice impersonating a lawyer, a third-degree felony. He was formally charged on October 19. In the days that followed, Anderson searched Shah's duplex on Jack Street in Montrose and found reams and reams of documents, bank statements, photographs and other mementos belonging to his victims or possible future victims.

After bonding out, Shah fled to the home of Jonathan Davidsson, a handsome young Swedish ballet dancer. (Police have said the two were lovers; Davidsson vigorously denies this is true.) According to Jim Perdue Jr., a lawyer who opposed Shah in the Johnson civil case and who observed Shah's subsequent probation revocation hearing, Shah spun Davidsson a wild tale. Davidsson would testify that he was in New York when Shah called him and said that his CIA cover had been blown and that his Jack Street home had been raided by Chinese agents. "Whatever you do, do not go back to the house on Jack Street," Shah told Davidsson. "It's not safe. It's under surveillance around the clock." Shah asked for permission to move in with Davidsson, and the dancer granted it.

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John Nova Lomax
Contact: John Nova Lomax