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Smith: Scammers said they were helping Sonoma County fire victims, but used their stolen credit cards

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Since the October fires left thousands homeless, Dan and Ann Reed’s trailers and campers lot in Petaluma has been a-bustle without a hustle.

Reed’s Trailer Sales has sold about 100 recreational vehicles to fire survivors — at wholesale cost.

“It was the right thing to do,” said Ann, whose mind replays the “story after story after story” she heard from people who fled the flames and returned to devastation.

Within this post-disaster business environment, it didn’t seem unusual for a customer to phone and say he operates food trucks in Napa, that he still wants to feed people displaced by the firestorms and needs gas-powered electrical generators to do the work.

He wanted eight generators. Reed’s parts-and-service department said it could round up six. The caller said he’d send employees over to pay for and pick up the generators, which cost $1,050 each.

A man and a woman showed up, spoke about the food-truck mission and used two credit cards to purchase the generators, hookups and oil, for a total of more than $7,000.

Not long later, Reed’s received notices from credit card companies: The cards used for the sales had been stolen — from victims of the firestorms.

“It felt,” said Ann Reed, “like a kick in the teeth.”

Ann shares security-camera photos of the scammers because she’d like to help other businesses avoid being cheated by them. Also, she believes that for them to be caught would, “in the long run,” be good for them.

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JACKSON AND PATRICK are buddies at Cardinal Newman High School and, as far at the American Red Cross is concerned, genuine heroes.

Before the Tubbs fire, Jackson Phillips and Patrick Foley, both 17, had put in vast numbers of hours teaching grade-school kids to be prepared for disaster.

When the fires struck, the teens rushed to assist at Red Cross evacuation centers and warehouses. Both lost their family homes to the firestorms.

This past Saturday, Patrick and Jackson were among the Bay Area heroes honored at a dressy and dazzling Red Cross gala at San Francisco City Hall.

The morning of April 27, the boys’ story of service and courage will be told again when they’re celebrated as Real Heroes of the regional Red Cross at a breakfast at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek.

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HUGH AND MILTON: A little bell rang in Reg Bayley’s head as he read that President Trump is taking on a new economic advisor.

The news story reminded Reg, who for decades was an exec with Codding Enterprises, of a dinner-table exchange between late, bigger-than-life Sonoma County developer Hugh Codding and late economist Milton Friedman, who once advised President Reagan.

The Coddings and Friedmans were vacation-home neighbors at The Sea Ranch. At some point after Milton won the 1976 Nobel Prize in economics, Hugh invited him over for a dinner party.

Reg recalls that as Milton elaborated on an economic theory at the table, Hugh announced to him, “I don’t understand a thing you are saying. I’m illiterate, you know.”

Milton Friedman replied, “I don’t believe you are illiterate, Hugh, but I can well believe you are illegitimate.”

Chris Smith is at 707-521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.