Houston Joins the Sleuth Army Chasing St. Louis Grifter Dustin Mitchell Down the Rabbit Hole

Dustin Mitchell paging through Chris Andoe's book Delusions of Grandeur at the 2015 book signing.

Dustin Mitchell paged through Chris Andoe's book Delusions of Grandeur at the 2015 book signing while texting threats to Andoe's sources. (Photo by Chris Andoe)

St. Louis fraudster Dustin Mitchell has been having a field day since moving to Texas in 2016. First, he convinced the Dallas area he was a lawyer and judicial candidate, which landed him in the Texas State Penitentiary for about three years. Once paroled, he moved on to Glen Rose where he made a big splash presenting himself as a successful businessman with grand plans to put the tiny town on the map.

Finally, the Baptist-turned-Mormon-turned, to borrow from George Santos, “Jew-ish” con hit Houston, where he convinced the Chabad of West Houston he was a rabbi and started fake charities, according to the police. A boyfriend says Mitchell had him committed to a psych ward.

Mitchell’s Achilles heel is his addiction to the limelight. In Houston, his undoing was apparently staging a hate crime against himself. He painted an anti-Semitic message on his truck and then tried to get maximum attention for the incident with a YouTube post. This put him on the radar of local police, who quickly uncovered his criminal history and articles written about him.

Last month, Mitchell was arrested and charged with four felonies stemming from his use of a dead woman’s credit card. While working for Chabad of West Houston, Mitchell met Patti ‘Rivka’ Weilbaecher, who passed away in August 2023. Mitchell is accused of charging more than $15,000 to her credit card after her death. The Jewish-Herald Voice reports that sometime after Mitchell befriended Weilbaecher, she gave him her power of attorney. He paid for her burial but then made off with her remaining funds.

According to text messages shared with Out in STL that he allegedly sent to former friend Bonnie Miles, Mitchell admits to changing Weilbaecher’s will to leave himself four million dollars.

Inside Mitchell’s home, detectives found eight law enforcement badges, several passports, three guns and spray paint that matched the graffiti on his truck.

“We do believe he spray painted it on himself, ” Houston Detective Brian Tsai said at a press conference on May 28. “Additionally, he’s under investigation for making multiple fictitious, non-profit organizations.”

Fox 26 Houston says of Mitchell, “His criminal history is a rabbit hole.”

Ask Alice 

There’s an entire community of sleuths who’ve been chasing the white rabbit for a dozen years. The followers of Mitchell’s misdeeds began to assemble in earnest a dozen years ago, though in St. Louis’ LGBTQ+ community, interest goes back much farther.

As far back as the mid 2000s, the tall, confident Mitchell was always pitching fishy business opportunities, everything from pyramid schemes to discount vacations, and when he’d get word that someone was casting doubt on his legitimacy, he’d slap the offending parties with a cease and desist.

Once, at a local gay bar, the bartender tried to keep him from leaving after his credit card was declined. In response, Mitchell grabbed the bartender and attempted to perform a citizen’s arrest. At Novaks, a popular Grove bar that has since closed, he told staff he was a new silent partner and proceeded to make himself at home behind the bar and bark orders.

For a good while, Mitchell was given a wide berth because nobody knew what to make of him.

But in 2012, that grandiose grifter first made headlines for pretending to be an attorney at the St. Louis County Court. I wrote a Facebook post about it that garnered thousands of comments from victims and others with stories to tell. A community was born, and we were a fun and creative bunch.

Mitchell was so prolific, we always had something to investigate and discuss. When he posted a Facebook update from Las Vegas, with his bare feet before floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the strip, for example, a reverse image search revealed that the image was lifted from a travel advertisement. “Maestro of Memes” Josh Jordan would then create hilarious memes mocking the fraudster, including a “Touch of Grey” hair coloring ad featuring Mitchell on the box and an edited brand name “Touch of Cray.”

Touch of Cray meme

The community following Dustin Mitchell includes “Maestro of Memes” Josh Jordan, who created this Touch of Cray meme. (Courtesy Josh Jordan)

Mitchell created a fake, handsome Facebook persona named Ryan McCormic and managed to convince the community that he was a real guy. He befriended dozens online, having intimate chats and checking into various venues, and then Mitchell killed him off in a dramatic crash and tried to raise money for a funeral. The sleuths identified and contacted the Israeli model whose photos were used in the scam, Eliran David Biton, and an affluent man named Gary Goldberg hosted a big Pride pool party that summer featuring a life-size cardboard cutout of the model, to the delight of once-fooled guests.

With each new report, people like Justin Thompson came forward with stories they’d been sitting on for years. At 21, Thompson dated Mitchell, who was 25, from Christmas 2005 to New Year’s. He described the weeklong affair as, “One of the most fucked up traumatic things I’ve ever experienced and probably ever will.”

At the time, Mitchell was living with his great uncle in a working class St. Louis neighborhood. Thompson’s account was included in my first book, Delusions of Grandeur.

“He was taking at least four prescriptions, two of which were OxyContin and Lorazepam, and he seemed to have an endless supply of money, which he spent on expensive liquor and wine. We got wasted and had a lot of sex. That night was fun, but I wasn’t used to drinking that way. The next night he told me he’d injected a large amount of morphine into his leg and that I needed to hold him down because he’d soon be going into convulsions, because it was too much. He wasn’t lying. I was terrified, but it was all just a big blur the next day.”

Despite everything, Justin went back over there on the third night, though this time he didn’t drink.

“Again he was wasted. We were in the bed and he started spilling his guts about his ex, then he went to a completely dark and terrifying place. Most of it was incoherent, but he told me that he was the devil and that I needed to kill him before he destroyed the world. He pulled out a shotgun from under his bed, showed me that it was loaded, and tried to blow his brains out. I screamed for his uncle, who couldn’t hear me, and wrestled with him trying to get the gun away to no avail. He finally passed out.

“The next day he called and I told him I didn’t want to see him again. But he begged and pleaded until I offered to come over if he wouldn’t drink. He agreed, and we had an evening together that was one of the most wonderful evenings of my life. He made me a wonderful dinner, and we watched movies and snuggled.

“The next night I went out with my girlfriends and called him on my way home around two to check on him. He sounded sober and fine. Around six in the morning I received a call from his aunt telling me he was in an ICU at Barnes Hospital. He’d gotten drunk after we talked, got into a fight with his uncle and stabbed himself in the neck with a broken bottle and a flathead screwdriver.

“I went to Barnes immediately and the room was a bloodbath. Something straight out of a horror movie. And he was hysterical. Insane. Once they finally got him calmed down he was transferred to the psych ward where I spent New Year’s Eve with him.

“When they released him a few days later, his family wouldn’t have anything to do with him. I picked him up and brought him back to my place so he could try to figure out what to do. I told him there was no way in hell he could stay with me because my roommates would have no part of it, and with nowhere to go, dropped him off at the psych ward. I decided that my time had expired in this horrendous situation.”

While Mitchell normally comes off as cool and collected in public, he’s wildly unpredictable when cornered.

One evening in 2014, Mitchell and a trans woman took a taxi home from the bar. Mitchell’s credit cards were declined. He assured the driver he had cash inside the house, but the driver said he was calling the police. Mitchell reportedly stabbed the driver, his companion and himself and went to social media with the heroic tale of how he defended a trans woman against a knife attack from a transphobic driver. He shopped the story to the press, but nobody bought it.

When KSDK reported on a hostage crisis hoax at his home in 2015, they said, “He is well-known to police, and they say he stabbed a cab driver last year. …” Mitchell attempted to frame me for calling in the hostage report, telling police I was a jilted ex-lover though I had yet to meet Mitchell in person.

A few months later, he attended the splashy Delusions of Grandeur signing event, despite all the unflattering and downright disturbing stories of character “Rustin Winchell.” He even invited me out for drinks afterward and asked me to work on his campaign for governor.

I later learned that while he was nonchalantly thumbing through my book as we visited that evening, he was simultaneously sending threats to those I quoted in it, including Justin Thompson. “I’m going to ruin your life,” Mitchell wrote.

Mitchell moved to Dallas in 2016, and I soon discovered there was a Dallas-based Facebook Group dedicated to bringing him down. His crimes had grown more serious, like allegedly sexually assaulting someone under the guise of performing an exorcism, so understandably our Dallas cousins were decidedly less entertained. They were all about the businesses of seeing him locked up.

The St. Louis and Dallas teams blended relatively well overall, and my 2018 Dustin Does Dallas feature went viral and proved to be the bane of Mitchell’s existence. He absolutely hated that feature, saying it painted him as a pedophile, and filed half a dozen lawsuits against me and those I quoted, all of which were dismissed.

The discovery of the sprawling feature is what got him run out of Glen Rose, the town he found employment in after leaving prison for, again, holding himself out as an attorney.

Dustin Does Dallas story in Out in STL

Dustin Mitchell and Chris Andoe came face to face at the latter’s book signing. Mitchell invited Andoe out for drinks and asked him to work on his campaign for governor. (Courtesy Chris Andoe)

When Men on the Chessboard Get Up and Tell You Where To Go …

The core community of Dustin Mitchell sleuths faced growing pains and had begun to fray after Dustin Does Dallas, as one member of the team aggressively asserted control. Now, with fevered speculation within that community around everything from human trafficking to murder, the expectation is that the Dustin Mitchell saga could soon hit HBO or Netflix, and the aforementioned member, who has discussed an offer for a docuseries, has become highly territorial with the story.

My phone recently rang at midnight, and it was a Houstonian I’d quoted in an article, asking me why she was contacted by an anonymous person telling her to never speak with me again. It seems the same person contacted Mitchell’s own family and told not them not to speak to the press.

One member of the core group who stepped back early on was Mitchell’s former best friend and roommate, JaiDa Burkett, who received many hateful and threatening letters from Mitchell the last time he was in prison. The prison was seemingly incapable of stopping him.

Burkett declined my request for an interview, saying only, “I’m concerned about what he is capable of doing, even if he is in prison, as he was able to harass me in the most extreme ways from behind bars previously.”

As far as his other crimes, brother Travis Mitchell, says he thinks Mitchell’s victims number in the hundreds.

Regardless of the internal clashes within our greater sleuth community, the investigative work done, particularly in Dallas, has been phenomenal. And by all accounts, authorities in Houston are determined to keep Mitchell locked up.

Detectives are flooding the rabbit warren like water from the bayou, and it appears there may be no escape.

If you have information to help Houston detectives in their efforts, please call Major Offenders at (713) 308-3100, or Houston Crime Stoppers at (713) 222-TIPS. 


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