Practically everyone in the San Jose political community recently received an email asking for financial assistance from a faraway land—but it didn’t come from a Nigerian prince. Instead, it came from a scammer posing as local political consultant and aspiring lawyer Rolando Bonilla, whose email account was hacked. “It’s me Rolando—I really don’t mean to inconvenience you right now, I made a trip to Scotland and I misplaced my passport and credit cards,” the imposter wrote.
As if to explain that he had gotten drugged and woke up in a bathtub missing a kidney, the email went on: “This may sound odd, but it all happened very fast.” A phone number for a presumably fake hotel is included, as well as Bonilla’s real email signature and the predictable plea: “I’m short of funds to pay for my ticket and other miscellaneous expenses. I’m willing to pay back as soon as I return home.”
One person who was more than a little surprised to be included in the email chain was fellow poli-con Jay Rosenthal. The two have had an, ahem, adversarial relationship over the years, and Bonilla and his business partner, Ryan Ford, took Rosenthal to court in January after Rosenthal launched a prank website with the URL fordandbonilla.com. (The case was summarily dismissed.)
Rosenthal’s reaction to the faux cry for help: “When I saw that I received an email from Rolando, I was surprised,” he said. “When I was saw that he was asking for large sums of money, I was less so.” It is not clear whether the ordinarily sharp Rosenthal immediately caught on to the fact that the email was a spam scam.
Bonilla says the ordeal has been a headache, but it’s been nice to see how many people have reached out to make sure he was OK.