Jonathan Kern defrauds businesses and individuals while impersonating race car driver Jonathan Palmer.

Smiling Jonathan Kern with dark curly hair

Jonathan Kern


Gender: Male
DOB: 1/9/54
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 180 lbs.
Eyes: Brown
Hair: Brown
Defining Characteristics: Born in London; speaks with British accent, and is fluent in Italian and French. Smokes Dunhill cigarettes; likes designer clothes, expensive food, fine wines, expensive cars like Mercedes Benz sports car


Alleged scam artist, Jonathan Kern, has reportedly made a very profitable career out of impersonating a well-known Formula One race driver named Jonathan Palmer.   The real Jonathan Palmer was a medical doctor before he became a world champion driver. Palmer said he is all too familiar with Jonathan Kern:

“He is most at home wearing Versace clothes, eating caviar and smoked salmon, and driving Mercedes-Benz sports cars and being escorted by gorgeous women. And, as he cannot do that through genuinely earned income, he resorts to fraud to achieve his desired lifestyle.”

Formula one race driver Jonathan Palmer

The real Jonathan Palmer

Kern has reportedly criss-crossed Europe, racking up bills for designer clothes, elegant restaurants, and five-star hotels, all under the name of Jonathan Palmer, and all unpaid.

Police said that in 1994, Kern brought his masquerade to America.   Elizabeth Grzeszczyk met him at a hotel in Miami, Florida. Elizabeth knew something about car racing and was at first skeptical. She recalled how Kern eventually won her over:

“And I asked a few more questions, and I said, ‘Well, what did you do before you raced cars?’ He said, ‘I was a medical doctor.’ And I said, ‘That’s right.’   I knew some background. I said, ‘Who did you race for?’ And he told me Tiero, which I knew was a British team. And I thought, ‘Wow, it really is you.'”

Elizabeth wasn’t the only one impressed by Jonathan Kern.   Hotel owner David Colby recalled how a car dealer provided Kern with a $78,000 Jaguar, free of charge:

“They dropped the keys at the desk and they said, ‘This is for Mr. Palmer for his use while he’s in America, and please make sure that he gets it.’ We always believed him, and that just made us more convinced that everything was ok.”

Kern waving from the driver seat of his expensive mercedes convertible

Kern convinced everyone he was John Palmer

Elizabeth said that she thought the whole affair was almost too good to be true:

“I couldn’t understand intellectually why he was interested in me. I’m just a nobody. And I said to him, “Why are you interested in me?” And he told me he just wanted a steady relationship. He didn’t want the jet set life. And he convinced me over the next few days that I was what he was looking for.”

Elizabeth was impressed by Kern’s international connections.   Everyone at the hotel where Kern was staying, from bellhops to the manager, had been totally persuaded by his performance.   David Colby recalled:

“He just wove a web of intrigue around us and managed to have a very nice holiday at the hotel for five days and run up a huge bill in the restaurant and, have bottles of champagne delivered to his room, and we always believed him, despite the fact that he was already having a little bit of a problem with my front desk about how he was going to pay his bill.”

Elizabeth Grzeszczyk after being conned into bankruptcy

John’s con forced Elizabeth into bankruptcy

After a five-day stay, Kerns stiffed the hotel for about $3,000.

Eventually, Kern charmed his way into Elizabeth’s Connecticut home. She still believed he was Jonathan Palmer, still believed he had put his career on hold to spend time with her.   But Kern was apparently only interested in her money.

Elizabeth described how Kern wrote her a personal check drawn on a bank in Italy for 11 million lira, nearly $8,000:

“At the time, I was nervous about it. And the first question out of my family and friends when I told them was, ‘Did you give him any money?’ At first I lied and I said, ‘Oh, no, no.’ And then once the check cleared, I said, ‘See, it was fine. Yes, I did give him some money, but now the check has cleared and I have the money back.'”

During his stay with Elizabeth, Kern made what he said were frequent business trips to Manhattan.   He made the drive in a $125,000 Mercedes lent to him by a local dealer.   He also carried Elizabeth’s ATM card, just in case of an emergency. During one trip, he called to say his wallet had been stolen. Once again, Elizabeth put her own money at Kern’s disposal.   Elizabeth said she never dreamed he would use the card to drain her account:

“I didn’t really check up on him. I could have gone through his things, but I didn’t. I just continued to try and believe in him.”

Eventually, Kern started spending more time in Manhattan than with Elizabeth, causing her to have a complete change of heart. When he left one day, Elizabeth began calling numbers from her phone bill, matching them with names Kern had mentioned.   The answers came back the same:   the caller was named Jonathan Lake, not Palmer.   Elizabeth was crushed:

“I realized some of the numbers that I called were other women. He had been romancing other women while he was in Manhattan.   I had been taken.   He hadn’t been in love with me. He was just using me. I just felt awful.”

Nearly a year after Elizabeth deposited the check from Kern, the bank in Italy reversed payment.   The check had bounced after all.   Police said that Kern swindled some $15,000 from Elizabeth, forcing her into bankruptcy.

Later, in London, Jonathan Kern allegedly conned a well known fashion executive out of 10,000 British pounds.   When she called the police, he fled once again and is still wanted by authorities.

Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season nine with Robert Stack and in season one with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.




  1. Curtis Carpenter

    Where is he now, we need a update is he dead still wanted?


    • Elizabeth Grzeszczyk Ballard

      Dear Curtis, UM doesn’t provide updates for “Unsolved” cases, but I can provide you with an unofficial update since I have been tracking Jonathan Kern, the con man since he conned me in 1994. Jonathan Kern is presently living in Lunay, France and continues to con/scam/steal from people. There is still an active warrant for his arrest in Milford, Connecticut on the charges I brought against him: second degree forgery, second degree larceny and criminal impersonation. I have started a Facebook page: “Conned but Not Conquered” to warn others about Kern and it includes an extensive, but by no mean comprehensive list of Kern’s criminal activities, arrests and convictions.


  2. Virginia Noall

    I’m so sorry to read all these stories but he got me aged 17 1977 and for the next year ruined my life while I was studying for my A levels and conned me and my father who gave him mo eye to buy a Porsche
    I have more stories than all of you put together that took me/us from London across Europe to Haifa Istael where the police caught up with him and I was left stranded with no money
    I worked in a cafe to earn money to get home because my mother had warned me and I didnt listened I couldnt ask her for money to het me home
    NY stories would amazed all of you but those days there was no internet and easy to defraud credit card companies hotels shops garages etc
    I would love to see him due in jail


    • Elizabeth Grzeszczyk Ballard

      Hello Virginia, I am very sorry to hear you were also a victim of Jonathan Kern’s. A British Media Company is interested in running a piece on Kern and would like to speak with any victims willing to come forward. You can remain anonymous if you wish. Please contact me if you’re interested in speaking with them, or just want to share you story with me. Thank you, Elizabeth Grzeszczyk Ballard


  3. Charles

    Its astounding this guy has eluded getting caught this long.


  4. Simon maynard

    Wow I just watched the Tinder swindler on Netflix and the story reminded me of Jonathan that I met in the early 90s
    I am a hairdresser and I was working in the West End in a very prestigious high class hairdressers at the time and I had this Formula One ex-motor racing driver booking called Jonathan Palmer and I got on very well with him and over the next few months Got to know him quite well and I used to cut his hair outside of work hours normally round one of his girlfriends houses , The first girlfriend that I met and used to go out to her house that he shared with her was an older very rich lady very nice living in Mayfair and she was away at the end of the relationship and he always used to have quite a few of her friends round which were a lot younger and very very pretty and then he would split up with that girl and then he moved onto the next girlfriend ! The next girlfriend I met who is very similar very rich and he moved into her loft apartment in a very affluent part of London The house as with the other apartment it was full of Formula One memorabilia including a lot of tires ,trophies and photos. He totally convinced me that he was Jonathan Palmer without any doubt . I also cut this girlfriend‘s hair I cannot remember her name as with the last relationship she ended up going away for the last two months leaving him at the apartment , this time it turned into a bit more of a party every time I will go round to his apartment there be a couple of stunning ladies they’re friends of his girlfriend of course and there will be lots of drink cocaine the lot are you kind of went on a bit of a bender and he seems like a bit on edge anyway that was the last I saw of him and a after a couple of months his girlfriend called me and asked me to come over and cut her hair and said she had some really crazy news about Jonathan he fraud her out of £100,000 ! I went to see her and she played me loads of messages from one of the phones he had and her personal phone voicemails from prostitutes and pimps threatening her and Jonathan with death threats demanding money where he did used these girls and he never paid them really scary phone calls!! I even received a letter from him from prison where he signed it Jonathan Palmer and asked me for some money and told me that it was all lies and not to believe anything I read in the press ! I never heard from him again since but I must try and find the letter



  5. Debbie

    I had the experience of being ‘befriended’ by him sometime in the 90s as his mother lived in Edgware, as did I. Luckily, I didn’t find him attractive, so turned down his offers of romance, nor did I have much money to steal, although he did manage to con me out of £60 by pretending that his wallet had been stolen. He even had me visiting him in Brixton prison after being arrested in France for something or other- and I took his dirty washing back to his mother’s for him!!!

    When the penny dropped, I went back to visit him in prison and confronted him, saying I knew he wasn’t Jonathan Palmer. His answer was hilarious- “I’m the French racing driver called Jonathan Palmer- there are 2 of us.”

    I went to the police in Edgware. The officer’s answer to my complaint about him taking my money was equally hilarious- after telling me that he knew him well as a local conman, he asked me, “did you get a receipt?” Lesson learned, lucky escape!


    • Elizabeth Grzeszczyk Ballard

      Hi Debbie, I’m so sorry to hear about your experience. Makes me sick that the police just laughed at you. And I consider Kern’s mother (who passed away last year) an accomplice as she just kept bailing him out of trouble. I still track Kern as he is still conning others. He is presently living in Lunay, France. I’ve done my best to warn the locals there via posting ads in Facebook and “boosting” them to that area. Some respond thanking me for the warning, some don’t believe me. You know how it is, he can be very charming.


    • Neil Drewitt

      I knew Jonathan Kern briefly in the mid-1980s, through a university friend who worked at a top London fashion model agency. The latter sector, with its abundance of attractive young women, naturally attracted crooks and conmen. Kern’s criminality was furtive and he was an unconvincing liar but myself and my friends were not his target audience. With rich and accomplished parents, he lived in their shadow and failed to take advantage of his privileged upbringing. His preferred hunting ground was nightclubs in the glitzier parts of France such as St Tropez and Megève, where he would convince rich and lonely young women that he was a racing driver or confidante of the Rolling Stones. He once sent me a postcard from La Santé prison in Paris, where he was serving a short sentence. Convicted drug dealer Howard Marks disparagingly references Kern in his autobiography Mr Nice (1996), after they crossed paths in HMP Brixton. The weakness of less talented criminals is that they invariably repeat the same scam, and Jonathan is no exception.


      • Elizabeth Grzeszczyk Ballard

        Thank you so much for this additional information on Kern’s criminal activities. He is presently living in Lunay, France and is still conning people. I was one of his many victims and do what I can to make people aware of him. On the one hand, reading your post is reassuring that I was just one of so many who were conned by Kern. On the other hand, it’s frustrating that more of his victims don’t speak up and/or try and press charges against him. Then again, if you’ve witnessed his violent mood swings (I’m sure in part to his being a drug addict) like I have, you understand how people can be intimidated by him and choose to remain silent to protect their safety and as well as their families’ safety.


  6. Jak kelley

    I believe he’s also impersonation Rock Icon Robert James Ritchie aka Kid Rock on Facebook. There’s multiple pages under Messanger did a reversal phone search on the numbers listed and they inactive land line numbers and he’s using the as co.puter spoofing numbers scammjng woman out of money and their bank info and showing fake passports for kid Rock. I actually spoke to his Manager who informed me the ma. Is definately a celebrity imposter so very sad.


  7. Anonymous Link to story about him being captured in France…. Doesn’t show date. Link to CNN story in 2009 about a US victim traveling to France to testify against him.

    I cannot find any other info about prosecution or sentencing.


  8. AhYes

    Google his name and a vintage coin site comes up. Another result is his youtube account in regards to the Shellshock company, but hasn’t had a new video in 3 years.


    • Elizabeth Grzeszczyk Ballard

      That is a different Jonathan Kern. I am Elizabeth Grzeszczyk Ballard and was conned by Kern in 1994. I still track his whereabouts and criminal activities to try and prevent him from conning others.


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