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Man Accused of Bicoastal Bilking

April 3, 1999

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) _ Michael Dean Rockey has been many things to many people.

Police say that in the course of duping vulnerable women out of tens of thousands of dollars, he posed as a Cornell University psychiatrist, a prospective Irish Republican Army member and a British wool-business scion _ just to name a few.

Rockey’s trail of deception leads from California to New York, ``and who knows where in between,″ said Robert Weiner, a deputy district attorney in this mountain town.

Rockey is supposed to show up in May for trial on charges of bilking a woman out of more than $30,000. He’s out on bail, and Weiner doesn’t know where Rockey is. California wants him in May, too, for sentencing in another case.

The affidavit for Rockey’s arrest reads like a cross between a bodice-ripper romance tale and a cheap crime novel: Stranger comes to town, seduces women and makes off with their money.

``It seems to be his chosen profession,″ Weiner said.

The Glenwood Springs trial will focus on the charges involving Sonya Doyal, a bail bondsman who is married with two children. But the affidavit lists several others _ mostly women _ whom the 47-year-old Rockey also has allegedly conned out of money.

``He’s got a way with women and he’s got a way with the talk,″ Doyal said of Rockey, a tall, bulky man with a perpetually ruddy complexion.

The tools of his trade, according to the affidavit, include a British accent, a list of aliases including Mikal Dhalgren, Michael Finnegan and Michael Beckett, and a story about a wife, Kathleen, who died of cancer.

``To my knowledge, Kathleen never existed,″ said John White, a Colorado Springs private investigator who looked into Rockey’s past.

``It’s just a ploy to get in close,″ White said. ``He gets in close, takes them for as much money as he can and just disappears.″

Rockey’s public defender, Peter Rachesky, declined to discuss the Doyal case.

Doyal said she met Rockey in 1992, when she was a jailer in Glenwood Springs and he was held on felony theft and impersonation charges. They exchanged letters during his two years in state prison for those crimes.

She didn’t hear from Rockey for a year after his release, but in November 1995 he wrote from California with news: He loved her, he was terminally ill, he had become a Christian and he wanted to go straight.

They arranged to meet, but first he needed a $2,200 loan, he said. Doyal sent him a cashier’s check.

That launched a relationship marked by rare meetings at hotels, motels, even a highway exit _ and a sheaf of receipts from the Western Union office where Doyal wired Rockey money.

Rockey was always on the verge of coming into money, Doyal said, but he always needed some to tide him over _ legal fees, traveling money, cash to carry him until his book deal came through.

The book was supposed to be about how Rockey grew marijuana in California to pay for his wife’s cancer treatment _ a story several alleged victims said he used, and one Doyal found convincing.

``I could see him, I could feel him picking his wife up in the hospital, just a bag of bones, and her dying of cancer,″ she recalled.

Doyal said she lost friends because she refused to heed their warnings that she was being duped.

``I wanted to believe so much that this guy had changed,″ Doyal said. ``He would tell me in letter after letter, `I’m going to live in the light, I’m going to be a good person.‴

Also, Doyal said she had had major surgery and was having marriage problems when she met Rockey, so she was depressed and insecure _ a pattern Weiner said was common to many of his alleged victims.

``You’re dealing with situations in which people are vulnerable, caring and trusting and trying to help their fellow man,″ Weiner said. ``That is turned around and they become victims.″

Among those victims the affidavit lists a multiple sclerosis patient, the son of the owners of an Ithaca, N.Y., motel where Rockey stayed in 1992. He allegedly gave Rockey $400 to buy special computer equipment after Rockey told him he was a computer company executive and could get a discount.

Another alleged victim is Lori Pinello, a Colorado Springs woman who said she loaned him $9,500. After Rockey skipped town, Pinello began investigating and called Doyal, whose name he had mentioned. Their revelations prompted Doyal’s decision to go to authorities.

``He found a good victim _ he thought,″ Doyal said. ``But I’m saying: You’re not going to do this to me, and you’re not going to do it to anyone else.″

Rockey is charged with three felony theft counts, and faces up to 96 years in prison because of prior convictions in Colorado, Nevada and California.

Rockey was out on $25,000 bail, but that was raised to $250,000 on March 24. A warrant was issued for his arrest until he posts the larger amount, a bid to put him behind bars in Colorado before California sentences him in May on a felony conviction involving a rental car that wasn’t returned.

``It’s a matter of who gets him first,″ Weiner said.

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