Author Burl Barer discusses his first meeting with the conman/counterfeiter that led to the writing of MAN OVERBOARD: The Counterfeit Resurrection of Phil Champagne
I wasn’t the first author to approach Mr. Champagne about a book, and the fact that he hadn’t said “yes” to any of them encouraged rather than discouraged me. I fired up my Volvo 1800E, aimed it at Spokane, and passed through security at Geiger Correctional Center wearing faded blue jeans and my black “Saint” logo sweatshirt.
I didn’t want to look like a lawyer, cop or reporter. I grabbed a cup of coffee in a Styrofoam cup, and joined the affable Mr. Champagne at an outside picnic table.
“This is a rather pleasant correctional facility,” I offered as opening remark, and Phil replied, ““Correctional facility? What are they going to correct? My grammar? My golf swing? My table manners?”
I laughed, swirled the coffee around in the little white cup, paused for a while, then turned to him, asking sotto voice, “Tell me, Phil, how good were the bills?”
Bingo. There is nothing more compelling than an invitation to share criminal pride.
“Hell, they made it all the way to the Federal Reserve Bank in Seattle,” says Phil proudly. “Not all were that good – like the one that got us busted at the pancake house in Ritzville.”
Ah, yes. The pancake house in Ritzville. There are more criminal arrests of people passing through Ritzville than you would imagine. For some reason, people transporting contraband of all types operate under the delusion that you can speed through Eastern Washington, and right through Ritzville, with some sort of traffic impunity.
The illusion of impunity leads to incarceration more often than not, and it is not the place to even inadvertently pass a bogus bill.
Phil and I talked criminal strategy, why he didn’t swap the bills in drug deals down on Sprague Avenue in the dark, and why he used the bills to buy fruit pie. Simple. A good fruit pie is a real treat, and you never hear of violent deaths attributed to “a pie deal gone bad.”