Jonathan Dodson

A Letter to my Son

The following is based on actual events that happened to me. Only the names were changed.


Dear Ryan, 

Hey son, I’m sitting at my gate at Logan waiting to catch my plane to Washington. I was thinking on the ride over here about the fight we had right before I left. I didn’t want that to be the last conversation we had before I leave for the week on business. I didn’t mean to lash out at you today. I wasn’t mad at you; I just get frustrated with all the trouble you get into. I don’t like yelling at you, but I don’t know what I can do to get through to you and make you think before you make stupid decisions. Before you get the impression that I was a perfect kid when I was your age, I’d like to share a story with you about how close I once got to a major run with the law.

It was about thirty years ago when I was sixteen, your age. I always talked online with my friends and with new friends who I met through my own friends. I met a kid who lived about 25 minutes from where I lived. His name was Brian Thompson. He was the same age as me and we shared an interest in electronics. We met over the summer and spent some time together hanging out. Sometimes I would hang out with him and his friends and sometimes he would hang out with my friends and me. Little did I know that being friends with him would lead me down a dangerous road.

My buddy Brian always had the latest technology. He would have brand new computers, iPods, etc. I didn’t know how he could afford all of these things, but I didn’t really care that much. I was at his house one day and he was talking about a new Apple computer that he wanted to buy, but couldn’t afford. He was thinking of different ways in which he could make the money to purchase this new computer.

The next day, Brian messaged me online and told me that he found a way to get the computer. He said that he went onto an internet forum and found somebody in Virginia who was looking to get rid of one and accepted trades or cash. Brian asked if I could set up a transaction between him and the guy with the computer because his mother wouldn’t let him set up a PayPal account. I didn’t see any reason to reject his favor so I agreed. Brian told me that he would trade his old computer plus some cash for this guy’s Apple. Brian told me what to say and I posted the offer. We eventually set up a solid transaction and agreed on shipping at the same time so that both would receive their packages at the same time. Later that same week, the guy messaged me and told me he sent the package and Brian said he had shipped it out as well. I took him at his word.

A week later, Brian got his computer and was ecstatic about it. However, the sender messaged me and asked me why he hadn’t gotten his package yet. I told him that something might have happened and that it should arrive in a day or so. Another week passed and the guy messaged me again and said the package never came. He informed me that if it didn’t arrive the next day he would call the police and press charges. I panicked because I had never dealt with the police before and had no idea what to do. I talked to Brian about it and he assured me that he sent the package and that the guy was probably just trying to scam us by just saying that he never received it. I was starting to think that something bad had happened but I tried to ignore it.

A few days later, my mother saw my emails and noticed the frantic messages from the guy with whom I made the deal. She came and talked to me and told me how much potential trouble I could get into with the law. I explained to her how I acted as a middle-man in the transaction and was afraid that Brian has used me for a scam. She explained that internet fraud was a federal crime because it is interstate commerce and because of increased anti-terrorism laws. She immediately called the police to take me to talk with them. I answered questions and had to complete a detailed report. He explained that I was an unwitting accomplice and that if I hadn’t come forward voluntarily that I might have been in serious trouble if my role had been discovered during their investigation. It turned out that there were numerous reports filed against Brian, all regarding the same type of transactions which involved his scamming other people for their electronic goods.

Because I “did the right thing,” I avoided great legal trouble. He told me that I could have been charged with grand larceny and mail fraud if I hadn’t come in on my own. I was relieved and glad to get all of that off of my shoulders, and thankful that all it took was telling the truth.

After the incident, I didn’t see Brian again until I testified at his trial. From that day forward I remembered to use my parents as a resource instead of trying to hide my problems. Their involvement saved my life. I’d like to be there for you too. I’d like for you to think more about your actions, but I’d also like for you to remember that I’m always here to help you. Remember that I’m not only your father, but I was a kid once, too. I love you and will always want to help no matter what. I look forward to seeing you when I return from my trip.

Love, 

Dad.





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