Meet The Man Who Faked Heart Attacks To Escape Dinner Bills And Cab Fares

Police arrested Robert Farnham for “habitual criminality” and “fraud on a restaurant” after his doctor reported him for faking heart attacks to avoid paying bills. The Wisconsin resident, who has been caught pulling the same routine five times this year, most recently keeled over in Applebees to avoid paying $22.66 for a “steak, salad, mashed potatoes, a soda, a strawberry smoothie and a brownie.”

A doctor at the hospital, William T. Kumprey, was tired of seeing Farnam.

Farnam had been to the hospital several times in the last month or so. He had used his fake heart attack routine at Silk — an exotic lounge — at several restaurants and while getting out of various cabs.

The doctor told Farnam he would call the police the next time he caught him faking the clutch of death to avoid paying his bills.

Farnam let it slip that he had, earlier that very day, after a hearty meal for which he did not pay, absconded to Froedtert Hospital.

The doctor called police.

The 52-year-old faces nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine if convicted.

Cardiac arrest: Man faked heart attack when dinner bill arrived [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]


Edit Your Comment

  1. bobpence says:

    The definition of criminality should be something like wasting massive amounts of other peoples’ resources for a small gain of your own.

  2. homerjay says:

    He actually had to FAKE sick after eating at Applebees???

  3. Dobernala says:

    What does he to to avoid paying the hospital bill? Fake an even more serious medical issue?

  4. Dobernala says:

    Ben, are we allowed to blame the OP here or does the sacred cow status extend to people like this man too?

  5. timmus says:

    Fred G. Sanford would be proud.

  6. B says:

    I tried faking a heart attack to get out of paying a doctor’s bill, once. It didn’t work so well.

  7. QuantumRiff says:

    Where I live, the ambulance crew will treat you for free onsite, but once you step inside the ambulance, its about $1000 for “transport”. I want to know who his insurance policy is with, so I can try to get my employer to switch to them!

  8. DrJimmy says:

    Yeah, we had one of those here 6-7 years ago who faked seizures on dates with the idea of ditching restaurant tabs…much bigger tabs than $22.76.

    When called on it by a paramedic who’d seen him before on the same kind of gag, he belched “I…want…someone…else…you’re…a… bitch…” between twitches.

  9. stopxstart says:

    Anyone else get reminded of the Chuck Palaniuk novel “Choke” when reading this story?

  10. ElizabethD says:

    This sadly could turn out someday to be a variation on the boy who cried “wolf.” Give this man an artery-clogging meal at McD’s or Burger King, and no one will believe him when he keels over with a real cardiac event.

  11. tedyc03 says:

    @bobpence: I think presenting in the emergency room with a fake heart attack, thus denying other patients the ability to be seen quickly by attending physicians, qualifies.

    There’s a huge flap over secret shoppers and the AMA declined to allow them ([]) because they might detract from seriously ill patients. This man is no different, and his presentation in emergency rooms as a heart attack patient is a huge issue.

  12. portus says:

    @stopxstart – absolutely!

  13. qikamar says:


    Thanks Homerjay, you made a crappy day worthwhile with that comment.

  14. spikespeigel says:

    I used to do this but it failed miserably. I’d fake a heart attack with my johns and an orgasm at restaurants. It seemed like a flawless plan. At least in theory.

  15. Julia789 says:

    Since he doesn’t have money to pay the restaurant bills with, he’s probably on Medicaid, and therefore wouldn’t have to pay the hospital bill.

  16. Marshfield says:

    Wondering how this relates to the Consumerist?

  17. Eldritch says:

    @stopxstart: YES! That’s what I was gonna say!

  18. DePaulBlueDemon says:

    Seems like a lot of trouble a $22 bill…

  19. RodAox says:

    Paramedics couldn’t tell that he was faking a heart attack ? Or is the standard procedure performed only at the hospitals like checking pulse, blood pressure etc. ?

  20. ZekeSulastin says:

    @RodAox: Once care is initiated, it cannot be stopped without the patient signing a release else it becomes legal abandonment, placing the EMT and/or the certifying authority in a position to be sued.

  21. emt888 says:

    @RodAox: As a former WI EMT (I retired 2 years ago), I know that if 911 was called, we had to transport the person unless they signed a waiver stating that they didn’t want to be transported to the hospital. Don’t get me started about the dislocated fingers and toothaches that we had to transport to the hospital. If we refused to transport them (even if they were fine), we could be sued for abandonment. This is why in some areas it takes 15-20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive, they are too busy responding to BS calls like these. It’s a crappy system.

  22. FMFats says:

    I rode with a DeKalb County GA police officer for a full shift a few months ago. He was called to a Kroger supermarket to take in a shoplifter that store security had grabbed. He was cuffed and put in the back of the patrol car. That’s when he started having chest pains. That brought out an ambulance and a fire truck. I can only imagine what the trip to Grady Hospital cost taxpayers. The likelihood that a Kroger employee would be available to file a complaint against the guy when he got out dropped to about zero. Guy knew how to work the system.

  23. Yoni K says:

    @ZekeSulastin: Many heart attacks cannot be detected without blood work. The standard procedure, at least for Paramedics in my area, is to treat a possible-heart-attack-patient based on their reported symptoms, even if their Vital Signs and the Heart Monitor appear normal.
    It is entirely possible for a patient having a heart attack to present with high -or- low blood pressure, high -or- low pulse rate and no changes on the EKG.

  24. animeredith says:

    He faked a heart attack to get out of a $22 bill? Classy.

  25. ZekeSulastin says:

    @Yoni K: Was that supposed to be an @RodAox? :p

  26. animeredith says:

    (Wish we could edit so I could add this on to my last comment)

    @emt888: I feel ya! My boyfriend is an EMT and they were always and forever getting calls from the local senior citizen community to come help with some ridiculous thing or another. They once got a call that ended up being some old lady who just needed help with going to the bathroom and pulling down/up her underwear. Where the center’s staff was to help with this stuff, I don’t know, but it’s a waste of time and resources.

  27. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    I sincerely hope he gets to experience the miracle of prison food.


  28. chutch says:

    @ElizabethD: Well really, BK and McD’s have no problem here. You pay before you eat at those types of places. BUT…. “steak, salad, mashed potatoes, a soda, a strawberry smoothie and a brownie” will get him there pretty quickly no matter where he chooses to dine. Cruel irony is fun no matter where though.

  29. Hawk07 says:

    I know a guy who faked a heart attack…. in the sixth grade. The teacher believed him too.

  30. Make my baby says:

    you fools, that’s robert de nero.

    he and winona ryder are delving head first into their character studies for the upcoming remake of bonnie and clyde, beginning production late summer.

  31. My local PD would solve this kind of “problem” with an one-way non-refundable non-transferable bus ticket to another city.

    Oh yes they did !!

  32. blb says:

    If only this sort of thing worked for airline flights.

  33. sultanselephant says:

    Is this just a viral campaign for CHOKE?

  34. dong0r says:

    He looks like an unkempt version of Dean Hodes from the show Weeds. I love him for that but he’s still an asshat. Also, “Froedtert Hospital” cannot possibly be a real hospital. I refuse to believe teh google and the dozens of links it brings up.

  35. Halloway says:

    Something like this happened in a Dirty Harry movie (can’t remember which one.) When Harry recognises the man having the fake heart attack he starts kicking him and eventually kicks him out of the restaurant.

  36. roche says:

    I don’t understand the point of faking a heart attack after a cab ride. Wouldn’t the ambulance take you away from where you were trying to go?

  37. Jay Slatkin says:

    Check out this guy who is acting as his own attorney and fakes a heart attack trying to cause a mistrial.

  38. OneQuietDave says:

    Wouldn’t it be easier to put a hair or a bug in the last bite of food? If he was lucky, he could get the first meal free and a guilt coupon for another.

  39. @Jay Slatkin: Wow. That’s awesome. I love how he stays committed to it! Pro se parties rock.

    My husband has a great filing from pro se party in some ugly divorce/custody/deadbeat case where the guy filed a motion to vacate which was, in its entirety, “You fuckers won’t get away with this!” in a handwritten scrawl. The best part was that in that case, the pro se party was an attorney. :P

  40. Mike_Hawk says:


    Heart Attacks are not always cut and dry in terms of diagnosis. Chest pain/heart injury can occur without changes on EKG, and while your index of suspicion decreases when the patient is not exhibiting classic symptoms (like rapid heart rate, profuse sweating, crushing as opposed to stabing pain et cetera) the only way to be certain is to observe over a period of several hours, with repeat ekgs and testing for enzymes that often appear in the blood after a myocardial infarction (smarty pants word for heart attack)

    So the paramedics are not doing anything wrong/stupid/whatever here. People with chest pain, get a fast track to a medical examination. If we permit paramedics, nurses or even physicians to start making the yes or no call without doing the proper diagnostics, you would see many more deaths. Yeah there are fakers (and just plain crazy people) but this is just one of those things that needs to be endured for the good of the whole.

    Now this guy on the other hand, is full of shit.

  41. Angryrider says:

    Tis’ a shame that any one of our candidates won’t get to meet this guy at an Applebee’s salad bar.

    I hope he gets sent to prison. He did this many times, and would still continue to do it unless someone is there to stop him.

  42. Yoni K says:

    @ZekeSulastin: yeah… sorry…

  43. newfenoix says:

    We had a woman in Hot Springs, AR that was well known for doing this. The owners eventually began to deny her service in their restaurants. She decided to seek revenge on one place by vandalizing it. To the tune of $150,000 worth of damage. Anything over $1000 in AR is a felony. She was arrested and it over a two year period, she had 121 arrests for petty theft, disturbing the peace, etc. Her attorney tried to get the charges thrown out on mental grounds. The judge didn’t buy it. He gave her the choice of woman’s prison or max security mental ward for 10 years, minimum. She picked the later.

  44. The hours he wastes in hospitals and ambulances could be spent at a job where he makes money to PAY for food.

  45. Nighthawke says:

    Echos of Dirty Harry []

    Early on in the movie before the hostage situation in the liquor store, they encountered an similiar event at a sidewalk cafe. Harry saw who it was and he started to “urge” him in his own way, by kicking and cussing. He finally grabbed the clown by the tie and yanked him up and off the ground, leading him out of the place.
    Good ole Callahan, he bent the rules, but got the job done.

    I suspect this clown saw the movie and decided to pull similar stunts. Poor copycatting can get you in the dip.

  46. timsgm1418 says:

    this guy should definitely get jail time. He is wasting the time of 911, the ambulance crew, and the hospital. I would hate to think someone really having a heart attack has to wait for treatment because this guy is a cheap bastard. As a rule, it’s really not a good idea to cry wolf for medical emergencies, nobody will believe him if he really does have one

  47. Smitherd says:

    @homerjay: That’s brilliant.

    I eat there pretty frequently, but the cheese sticks are the only thing that are definite outs for me. They get me sick every time.

    In Applebees’ defense, Chili’s cheese sticks are the same way.

  48. sisedi says:

    @homerjay: OMG yes. I went there for the first time recently, it’s like Fridays if it were 200 years old.

  49. bohemian says:

    How long before restaurants start pursuing medical emergency people like Home Depot pursues shoplifting false alarms with collection agencies.

    Now that you mention it I do see ambulances out in front of the nearby Applebees frequently.

  50. Coles_Law says:

    This guy will probably have a real heart attack if he gets that $10k fine.
    Seriously, that’s low. The trial should be quick.

  51. EdnaLegume says:

    I wonder if his insurance is looking into suing him, as they still were required to cover the hospital costs. I’m pretty sure my insurance covers all or most of the ambulance and hosptial coverage.

  52. elforesto says:

    “steak, salad, mashed potatoes, a soda, a strawberry smoothie and a brownie”

    If he keeps eating like that, he’ll have a real one before too long.

  53. Consumer007 says:

    I am glad he is getting a fine. This jerk and people like him gives honest consumers a bad name and then makes business owners think we are all like that. Idiot.

  54. milw123 says:

    The name of the hospital is real. It’s pronounced FRAY-dirt. It used to be plain old “County Hospital”, so that’s where the Medicaid patients end up. And I understand what the cab driver did-“dirty old guy having a heart-attack? I’m not sticking around for the ambulance, I’d lose an entire day’s worth of fares!” Screeee–vroooom!

  55. Sargasm says:

    I have no idea if this link will work, but this guy is a piece of work with a long criminal history.

  56. JayScooper says:

    And I half thought The Consumerist was going to applaud this behavior.

  57. Can’t the doctor get in trouble for violating Patient Doctor confidentially? If the patient is a danger to self or others you can violate confidentially, but does skipping out on meals count?

  58. I think this is so funny. Much better than the old classic standby “chew nd screw” to which I did in my youth. Probaboly as you get older you have to ‘flip the script’ since you arent mkoving as quickly. plus no accomplices….
    Id set my sights higher than disgusting Applebees

  59. Melt says:

    Even worse, from the original article at: [] was this comment, “Farnam told police he had $350 at home but hadn’t taken any money with him that day. He wasn’t planning on needing it.”

  60. OmicroN says:

    This is just going to cause restaurants and taxi cabs to charge people even if they do have a legitimate health-related event. I mean, if I have a legitimate heart attack with a prostitute, I shouldn’t have to pay for her services, right? If Applebee’s makes me keel over and die, should my widow be responsible for my $35 tab?

  61. coren says:

    So he’s whisked off to the hospital for his “heart attack” and the doctor who’s seen him so many times in the past doesn’t realize that he faked it again to get out of paying a bill, and it takes this guy being an idiot and saying “Oh yeah, I just skipped out on a bill” for the doctor to realize? Huh.

  62. nogas2speed says:

    Normally I would not condon this but since it is Applebee’s, I’m OK with it. I hate Applebee’s. They bought my favorite restaurant, HOPS, and destroyed it, so screw them.

  63. coren says:

    @nogas2speed: Ripping off someone is bad, except when it’s someone I don’t like?

  64. pfeng says:

    @coren: The doctor gave him a warning that the next time he saw the faker he’d call the police (already knowing he’d done it repeatedly), and the idiot then blew his last chance by revealing he’d done it earlier that day. The only fault I really find with the doctor is giving the guy a warning :-)

  65. glycolized says:

    @Sargasm: Just to give him a little benefit of doubt, most of those on that page are money judgments for bills that were referred to the courts, though there are a couple simple assault and battery type cases in there too.

  66. isadora says:

    Am I the only one more surprised by how much food you can get at Applebee’s for $22 than by his behavior? I would like to see a menu item/price rundown.

  67. deusdiabolus says:

    He will soon find out you can’t fake a heart attack to get out of prison rape.

  68. Triterion says:

    @stopxstart: Yeah, I instantly thought of the book ‘Choke’ by Chuck Palahniuk in which a guy fakes heart attacks, but in the book the guy was smarter- he wanted someone to save his life in the restaurant and to develop some sick Rapunzel complex where they would be so amazed that they saved his life that they would send him checks in the mail just to make sure he’s okay.

  69. coren says:

    @pfeng: Well that’s what I’m saying – what did he THINK the guy was at the hospital for that time, constipation? He had to know he’d had another faked heart attack..

  70. wgrune says:


    My guess is that he may be uninsured, and you and I are paying for all his $1000 + ambulance rides to the hospital, all his EKG tests or whatever other tests the doctors run on this loser. I would love to say send him to prison but that will just make him a better criminal and we will pay for that too. We need a new penal colony. Maybe Canada will sell us part of the NW Territory and we can make people like this guy dig for oil with plastic shovels.

  71. britne says:

    @stopxstart: my thoughts exactly!

  72. bbagdan says:

    Wasn’t this restaurant-heart-attack faking the storyline in a Three’s Company episode?

  73. Tonguetied says:

    So I guess in accordance with the Comments Code I can’t say something like “That’s why I never eat at Applebee’s; all the people faking heart attacks to get out of paying for their meal…”?

  74. ELC says:

    @homerjay: This would not pass muster under the new commenting rules. And thank goodness for that – having to wade through tons of these type of comments is frustrating.

  75. mferrari says:

    How could ER fees possibly be less than dinner at Applebee’s?