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Mommy's Little Con Man

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Hakan Yalincak at an NYU event.  

Jackie is supposed to come from money—“old money,” “billions,” people in Greenwich say—and the house is stately, a home for a very comfortable family. From the living room, I can see a run of woods beyond the backyard.

“How many bedrooms do you have?” I ask.

Jackie pauses as if to reflect. “Lot of bedrooms,” she says.

And yet the furnishings seem almost makeshift. Plastic covers the white seat cushions, the lampshade. The arm of my chair wobbles. The coffee table and couch are a faux-antique-y set. Sheets drape some windows, to keep out a nosy press. Walls are nearly bare.

“You drink orange juice or Diet Coke?” asks Omer, who appears with both. He returns with Marlboros, for Jackie.

The family arrived from Turkey, where they are still citizens, in the nineties; “1998,” Jackie says, though later in the conversation it seems to have been 1996 or even, according to Hakan, 1992.

In any case, they came “for the good education.” And, Jackie points out, not just for her own children. The Yalincak Family Foundation has pledged a total of $21 million to NYU, and also awards scholarships. “Ten students we have on scholarship,” says Jackie proudly.

“Do you know the name of anybody you gave a scholarship to?” I ask. I could speak to them, I suggest.

“McCormack, last name,” Jackie says, “and Rachel.”

“McCormack?”

“Hale! Hale!” shouts Jackie.

“Coming!” calls Hale, who’d slipped away.

“My daughter keeping the name,” she explains. Hale rushes in. “What is the last name that McCormack person?”

“I’ve just called him McCormack.”

“Do you have . . . phone number?” asks Jackie.

She has McCormack’s number, but only nine of ten digits. A little later, the phone rings. Apparently, it is McCormack. Jackie passes me the phone. He doesn’t want his full name mentioned, but he says that, yes, he receives a scholarship from the Yalincaks.

Omer materializes again. He has graying hair, a mustache, a soft yellow sweater, and house slippers. He carries in his hand a diploma—his diploma—from a leading Turkish medical school. He also trained in Japan, where the family lived for a time, and bolts up the stairs for that certificate.

You’re a surgeon? I ask when he returns.

“Six-hour surgeries,” he says dramatically.

It led me to wonder if he had helped her when she impersonated a doctor in Indiana, as reports indicate. She supposedly posed as Dr. Irene Kelly, for which she is said to have served time in prison.

“There is no such a thing as this,” says Jackie, as if this is all too much. “I mean, there isn’t anything like that at all.”

Did you guys ever live in Indiana?

“Never,” she says, as if she might be ready for a scrap. “Never lived in Indiana. At all.”

What she says makes a certain sense. Who, really, could take this Turkish woman with the heavy accent and the Turkish husband for Dr. Irene Kelly, supposedly a Canadian-trained internist? Having asked about one charge, I jump to another. How about that counterfeit $25 million check?

“Somebody gave it to . . . my daughter,” explains Jackie. Hale, with her long dark hair and snug, stylish jeans and her unaccented English, seems like a normal American teenager. “Yeah, I went to the door,” she says, on cue.

“Did the check have a name on it?” I ask, a journalistic reflex.

“I didn’t read a name,” says Hale. “I . . . gave it to my brother.”

Hakan was running a hedge fund, right?

“He was one of the best,” Jackie says, though she seems to have decided we’ve talked enough about such matters.

“Why don’t you bring Hakan information?” she says to Omer.

The Hakan information mostly covers his high-school days. “Hakan before collect the money for earthquake people,” Jackie explains. The husband, moving noiselessly in his soft slippers, carries into the room a giant poster of the check Hakan gave to the Red Cross to aid victims of a Turkish earthquake.

I read the check aloud: “January 13, 2000, for five thousand . . . ”

“ . . . three hundred and twenty-five dollars,” finishes Jackie proudly. The husband places the giant check next to his wife on the couch, casting her, it seems, as a game-show contestant.

Next, Hale takes me on a tour of Hakan’s rooms, starting with the study where he is said to have traded derivatives. Next door is Hakan’s bedroom, with a twin bed, a desk, nothing on the walls.

Back in the living room, Omer rushes in clutching a thick sheaf of paper. They are medication slips. There must be twenty of them. He waves them at me, like a fan, and points to Jackie.


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