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Gary Ross, The Teflon Man Of River Oaks

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Some guys seem to have all the luck. The average guy who Child Protective Services accuses of beating his stepdaughter might find himself behind bars, but not the subject of this week's cover story.

During a CPS investigation in Sugar Land, Gary Ross lit out for the Virgin Islands. He lived the good life on money from investors in real estate development deals that went nowhere. Then he headed to Palm Beach and made fast friends with people smart enough to get really, really rich and dumb enough to give their money to a smooth-talking guy without checking out his background first.

Ross apparently always fancied himself a member of upper-crust society. But he didn't have the schooling, the pedigree, the manners. Socialites who are busted with heroin have the connections and money to make such charges quietly disappear. But Ross served 11 months in prison, and two years later he was charged with felony possession of cocaine. That's when he got his first break -- those charges were dropped. This allowed the ex-con to marry a series of women and use their families' money to strike one shady investment deal after another, ingratiating himself with society types who he apparently believed were his peers. In his mind, Ross was not a two-bit ex-con stupid enough to be caught with a drug as a low-class as heroin; no, he was one of the elite, and he deserved all their trappings.

Apparently, River Oaks is a great place for such a person to harbor their delusions.

As long as everything appears right on the surface -- nice home, expensive car, good clothes -- people in River Oaks will trust you. Before long, according to sources, socialites like Carolyn Farb were taking Ross to charity galas. If Ross approached someone with a business proposal, they were only too glad to throw a bunch of money his way. It took a while for people to suspect that Ross might not be who he said he was, and after five years, his true background was partially exposed. But Ross is still in River Oaks, putting deals together, threatening to sue enemies, doing whatever he can to make sure that the Gary Ross people know is the Gary Ross he invented.

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