Chess con in Melrose?
Posted on February 28, 2008
by Peter Chianca

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Remember “The Music Man,” when Robert Preston as a genial con man tries to convince the fine people of River City that what they need to combat the damaging influence of pool (as in billiards) is to teach the kids how to play musical instruments — and then offers said instruments and instruction for a small fee? Well, how do you think it would have been if he’d offered to teach them chess instead? I’m thinking a lot less bouncy.

Regardless, it looks like a possible scam artist may have tried to pull those very hijinks in Melrose. Christopher Hackford, 20, has been running the “Chess for Children” extracurricular program in Melrose for students in kindergarten through Grade 5, at a cost of $63.50 per student for a six-week program, plus the opportunity to buy $14.99 chessboards. The only problem is, he never showed up again after the first session — and last week was arrested in Boston on an unrelated warrant for receiving stolen property. Reports the Melrose Free Press:

The parent who spoke with the Free Press said Hackford did not show up for the next session on Jan. 18 and fewer children were present. Hackford did not appear for the next two sessions, and the fourth week, the parent said participants “got a call from a woman who said she was his [Hackford’s] wife, saying that he had to fly out of town for a family emergency.” She said someone then traced the number the woman called from and found it was a Las Vegas, Nev. number.

And, oh, it looks like the schools might not have run a criminal background check on him. Whoops. Source: Wicked Local

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Chess program coordinator arrested in Boston: ran events in Melrose Public Schools
By Daniel DeMaina and Carol Brooks Ball/melrose@cnc.com
Thu Feb 28, 2008, 12:16 PM EST

Melrose – A man who has been running an extracurricular chess program for Melrose elementary school students was arrested in Boston Saturday on a warrant for receiving stolen property — and is being investigated by local police over concerns with his chess program here.

Christopher Hackford, 20, 263 Huntington Ave., Boston, was arrested by Boston Police on Saturday, Feb. 23, at 8 p.m. in Boston on a warrant issued by Weymouth Police. No details were provided on the type of stolen property involved.

Melrose Police Det. Sgt. Barry Campbell said Hackford was also arrested in Woburn last fall — the charges were not available — at which time he told police he was a student at Boston University. Campbell, however, called the school and said the school had no record of him being a student there.

Hackford has been running the “Chess for Children” extracurricular program in Melrose for students in kindergarten through Grade 5 — at a cost of $63.50 per student for a six-week program — at the Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School.

The program’s promotional flyer, sent home with children from each of the city’s five elementary school in their backpacks, lists a schedule of two sessions each Friday, beginning Jan. 11, at 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in the middle school cafeteria. Parents were directed to register their children via the program’s Web site, chessforchildren.net, using a school registration code listed on the flyer. The schools were not involved in the registration process.

After hearing reports from parents who were concerned about Hackford’s inconsistent attendance since the program began in January, police are now investigating a possible scam, according to Campbell. A parent, who spoke with the Free Press on condition of anonymity, said Hackford showed up 20 minutes late for the first session of the six-week program and has not appeared at any scheduled sessions since. Further, when that parent called the number listed on the Web site last Saturday to demand a refund — after Hackford’s fourth consecutive no-show — her message was not returned and she has yet to hear back from him.

Campbell said he sent an e-mail out to surrounding communities regarding Hackford and the Chess for Children program, as part of the police investigation. He said Newton Schools responded that they were forwarding the information about the program to the Newton Police Department.

Hackford’s Chess for Children program, according to online documents, has also recently been offered in three Newton elementary schools, a Brookline elementary school and in Lexington.

Here is the full article.

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