Man who sued SF Sheriff’s Department over Jewish headdress is back behind bars 

The Jewish con artist who pursued a federal lawsuit four years ago for the right to wear a yarmulke in County Jail has the opportunity to do just that now that he’s back behind bars.

Duane Allen Hoffman, 51, of San Francisco was arrested Saturday on suspicion of fraudulently impersonating high-powered guests at three high-end hotels in The City this month.

Between Nov. 2 and Nov. 11, according to court records, Hoffman racked up thousands of dollars in lodging, room service and other charges at the Hyatt Regency on The Embarcadero, the Omni Hotel and the Hotel Nikko.

He reportedly did so by posing as a corporate executive who claimed his wife was gravely ill at Stanford hospital, and also by using the hotel rewards points of a CEO at a large New York corporation. At one hotel, police said, Hoffman claimed he was an important man who had just been robbed, which explained his lack of identification or credit cards.

Hoffman was arrested Saturday and is facing three felony counts of identity theft with a prior conviction, three felony counts of defrauding an innkeeper and a misdemeanor count of falsely identifying himself to a police officer, Assistant District Attorney Alex Bastian said Wednesday.

The scam was not dissimilar from what got Hoffman jailed in 2008. In May of that year, according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, he was arrested on suspicion of using stolen credit cards at hotels. He was busted after trying to ship more than $800 in ties, shirts and cuff links from Neiman Marcus to the Marriott Hotel, the paper reported.

While awaiting charges for the 2008 crimes in County Jail, Hoffman filed a handwritten federal lawsuit alleging that the Sheriff’s Department discriminated against his religion by taking away his yarmulke, a cap worn by religious Jewish men. The Sheriff’s Department reportedly took the cap on the grounds that it could be used to hide weapons.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the lawsuit was successful, but the Sheriff’s Department did eventually let him wear the yarmulke.

During an interview with the Chronicle about the lawsuit, Hoffman stated from a wheelchair that he suffers from HIV and that his death was imminent.

“Being terminally ill, alone and in the jail infirmary, one needs religious comfort to endure,” he said.

At the time of his arrest Saturday, Hoffman was not in a wheelchair, according to police.

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Sunday, Jan 25, 2015

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