Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John E. Robinson, Sr.: The Slavemaster

Liar, Cheater, Thief

Robinson was a career criminal, bouncing from job to job over the next 20 years and managing to keep out of prison by crossing jurisdictional boundaries and convincing employers not to pursue charges when his thefts were revealed. Between 1969 and 1991, he was convicted four times for embezzlement or theft, and was barred for life by the Securities and Exchange Commission from engaging in any kind of investment business. Some of his thefts were small -- he lost his job with Mobil Corporation for stealing $300 in stamps -- while others were more significant.

DA Paul J. Morrison
DA Paul J. Morrison

"He had no real employment, unless you consider figuring out ways of scamming people out of their money to be real employment," saidJohnson County (Kansas) District Attorney Paul Morrison during Robinsons trial.

Authorities suspect that Robinson bilked dozens of others out of their money but that they were too embarrassed to come forward at the time.

In the 1970s and 80s, Robinson promoted himself as a civic leader and philanthropist, and stopped at nothing to polish his image. In reality, he was a sloppy forger who brazenly signed the names ofKansas City's community leaders to phony letters of introduction and commendation. Once he had a secretary draft a letter that he had been given a full professorship at the University of Missouri-Kansas City dental school. In another forgery that he used to scam investors, he misspelled the last name of one of Kansas City's leading businessmen.

Robinson's audacious forgeries were matched by the bald-faced lies he told to people who trusted him for help. His bogus hydroponics business, promoting growing crops in nutritional fluid environments, swindled a friend out of $25,000. The man had invested the money in Robinson's Hydro-Gro business because he hoped to get a better investment return to pay for his dying wife's health care. Robinson represented himself as an attorney to a gullible woman and handled her divorce. Years later she wondered whether her divorce was actually legal. He claimed to have helped finance Sylvester Stallone's second Rambo film, and finagled his way into a national farm publication as an expert on tax shelters for large farm operators.

His narcissism reached its pinnacle in 1977 when he engineered a "Man of the Year" award for himself that involved the mayor ofKansas City and a Missouri state senator. Presenting himself as a wealthy philanthropist with a desire to help the developmentally disabled, Robinson charmed his way onto the board of directors of a local handicapped service organization. One of his first acts, the executive director said later, was to order stationery for the group. With that in hand, he forged a letter from the executive director to the mayor and from the mayor to other civic leaders inviting them to an awards luncheon, honoring an anonymous recipient of the Man of the Year award.

Feigning surprise when the winner was announced, Robinson humbly accepted the rigged award as members of the organization board sat in stunned amazement. The local media was present and reported the ceremony, and Robinson's family was proudly in attendance. The plan backfired when the people whose names Robinson forged read about the event in the papers. The Kansas City Times, stung by the scam, took its revenge on Robinson two weeks later by exposing him for the fraud he was. His children were ridiculed at school and his wife was reluctant to show her face in public. Robinson, however, seemed undeterred by the turn of events.

The expos humiliated Robinson's family, who should also be included among his numerous victims. He portrayed himself as an active father and loving husband to the public, but this was simply an act. Robinson is a true psychopath incapable of any kind of emotional attachment, even to his family. The child of a binge-drinking father and disciplinarian mother, Robinson was a stern parent and intolerant of underachievement or insubordination (two traits that he demonstrated frequently in his own life). His wife Nancy later testified at his murder trial that Robinson was unfaithful for at least 20 years of their 38-year marriage.

The relative who has been harmed most is probably his younger brother. In the worst possible way, John Robinson exploited his brother Don's wish for a child to fulfill his own perverse need to feel important.

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