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Leroy Brown occupies Cell 3 of the km Natchitoches, La. parish jail, but he's not the baddest man in the whole damn town. The guy three cells down has a better claim. He's a bloated, Detroit-born bunko artist with teeth as crooked as his reputation. He answers to Bill Russell and Marv Fleming, and occasionally to John Mackey, but only reluctantly to Arthur Lee Trotter, the name on his FBI rap sheet.
Trotter, 49, changes identities faster than Woody Allen in Zelig. But he's more discriminating. He impersonates athletes almost exclusively. Trotter has been arrested 23 times since 1954, mostly for fraud, forgery and impersonation. This summer he claimed to be Bill Russell, the former great center of the Boston Celtics. But Trotter forgot he was eight inches too short for the role. On July 16 police arrested him for attempting to pull a confidence scam after he allegedly told a woman he was Russell and sold her a $2,500 share in a restaurant chain that had never heard of him. The police were listening in an adjoining room of the woman's house when the following conversation took place.
Woman: "You don't look like Bill Russell."
Trotter: "I got into a car accident and had to have plastic surgery."
Woman: "I was expecting someone much taller."
Trotter: "I had 10 inches of bone surgically removed from my shins. I wanted to fit easier into my new Mercedes. And I was tired of having my legs hang off motel beds."
Trotter offered to show her the scars. The cops offered to show him the parish jail.
At the station house, police say. Trotter quit being Russell and identified himself as Marv Fleming, the former tight end with the Green Bay Packers (1963-69) and Miami Dolphins (1970-74). He had a driver's license, insurance policies and personal checks as apparent proof. Snapshots found in the trunk of his car showed him holding up jerseys from the Packers and Dolphins with Fleming's number on them. He explained why he thought Vince Lombardi was a better coach than Don Shula. And he told of how Jim Mandich had beat him out in Miami, and of how he still resented it.
"How were we supposed to know he wasn't the real Marv Fleming?" says Natchitoches Detective Larry Vaughn. "He didn't have his Super Bowl ring on, but then again, he was posing as a basketball player."
The local police checked him out by calling the number of the real Marv Fleming in Marina del Rey, Calif. Fleming, 41, is now an actor who does commercials—"I have perfect teeth," he says—and had a one-line speaking part in Heaven Can Wait: "Hey, Mr. Farnsworth, did you ever play college football?" He had just come back from shooting rapids on the Colorado River.