When Tina Cernak met Todd Jostes online, she thought he was nice, handsome and might possibly turn into a romantic interest one day.
“He was very attentive and called me two to three times a day,” said Cernak.
But she says all that changed after she loaned him $10,000.
“He kind of disappeared,” she said. “The calls stopped. There was no calling me anymore to see how I was doing. The friendship just ended immediately.”
What Cernak did not know at the time, was that Jostes had a reputation from California to Phoenix to Illinois. That reputation included accusations of romancing women, borrowing money from them and failing to pay them back.
Jostes has claimed to be an ASU wrestler, firefighter, builder, MMA trainer and now makes his living as a wilderness expert. He was featured on the Discovery Channel, has a radio show and even appeared on Arizona Family’s 3TV twice.
After the last appearance, CBS 5 Investigates was contacted by someone who grew up with Jostes.
“A predator,” is how James Lotton describes Jostes. Lotton says he discovered his wife was sending money to Jostes. The three of them knew each other from high school in Crete, Illinois.
“I looked down and there’s a stack of receipts for electronic transfers of money, which were made out to Todd Jostes on top of the credit card,” said Lotton.
He claims Jostes borrowed $11,000 and failed to pay any of it back.
“I think con with romance involved is what they call it these days,” said a woman named Deborah, who asked us to withhold her last name.
She also grew up with Jostes, and says after decades of silence, he reached out to her out of the clear blue on Facebook.
“I put a picture on Valentine’s Day, and he said, ‘Oh my God. You have the most beautiful lips I have ever seen in my life,’” said Deborah. She claims Jostes borrowed $16,000 from her and has only paid her back about $400.
“So many women would attempt to get the money back and he would just block them, and just go on with his life and pretend none of us ever existed,” said Deborah.
CBS 5 Investigates reached out to Jostes in an effort to get his side of the story. He agreed to sit down with us but canceled on the morning of the meeting.
He sent a text that reads, in part, “I am on the road with my family and still with them. I am not available. In response to your accusations, I have owned the fact I was in a bad spot and borrowed money and have been making payments back and have receipts to show proof of payment.”
Tina Cernak won a judgment against Jostes to recover the $10,000 she loaned to him. She says she still hasn’t seen a penny. She and the others say they agreed to speak to CBS 5 Investigates in an effort to warn others.
“If I can help someone and prevent this from happening to them, then that’s why I’m here,” said Cernak.
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