Women say wilderness man stole hearts and took money

Posted: Updated:
Todd Jostes booking photo. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Todd Jostes booking photo. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Todd Jostes booking photo. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Todd Jostes booking photo. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Tina Cernak said she loaned Jostes $10,000 but hasn't been repaid. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Tina Cernak said she loaned Jostes $10,000 but hasn't been repaid. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

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.

Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


Popular Stories

Morgan  LoewMorgan Loew is an investigative reporter at CBS 5 News. His career has taken him to every corner of the state, lots of corners in the United States, and some far-flung corners of the globe.

Click to learn more about Morgan .

Morgan Loew
CBS 5 Investigates

Morgan’s past assignments include covering the invasion of Iraq, human smuggling in Mexico, vigilantes on the border and Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County. His reports have appeared or been featured on CBS News, CNN, NBC News, MSNBC and NPR.

Morgan’s peers have recognized his work with 11 Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards, two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for investigative reporting, an SPJ First Amendment Award, and a commendation from the Humane Society of the United States. In October 2016, Morgan was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Silver Circle in recognition of 25 years of contribution to the television industry in Arizona.

Morgan is graduate of the University of Arizona journalism school and Concord Law School at Purdue University Global. He is the president of the Arizona First Amendment Coalition and teaches media law and TV news reporting at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

When he’s not out looking for the next big news story, Morgan enjoys hiking, camping, cheering for the Arizona Wildcats and spending time with his family at their southern Arizona ranch.

Hide bio

  • Featured VideoMore>>

  • Art Institute of Phoenix to close down in December

    Art Institute of Phoenix to close down in December

    Tuesday, August 21 2018 1:29 AM EDT2018-08-21 05:29:40 GMT
    Students received an email letting them know that at the end of the year, the Art Institute of Phoenix will be closing its doors for good. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)Students received an email letting them know that at the end of the year, the Art Institute of Phoenix will be closing its doors for good. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
    Students received an email letting them know that at the end of the year, the Art Institute of Phoenix will be closing its doors for good. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)Students received an email letting them know that at the end of the year, the Art Institute of Phoenix will be closing its doors for good. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

    With unfinished degrees and a lot of questions, students at one Valley college are left scrambling wondering what to do next. For more than a month, students have heard rumors of their school closing. Then on Friday, it was made official.

    More >

    With unfinished degrees and a lot of questions, students at one Valley college are left scrambling wondering what to do next. For more than a month, students have heard rumors of their school closing. Then on Friday, it was made official.

    More >
  • UPDATE: Police identify man, woman killed in small plane crash

    UPDATE: Police identify man, woman killed in small plane crash

    Tuesday, August 21 2018 1:10 AM EDT2018-08-21 05:10:28 GMT
    The pilot has been identified as 54-year-old, Theodore Rich and the passenger has been identified as 49-year-old Elaine Carpenter. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5/Facebook)The pilot has been identified as 54-year-old, Theodore Rich and the passenger has been identified as 49-year-old Elaine Carpenter. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5/Facebook)

    The two victims in Monday morning's small plane crash have been identified.

    More >

    The two victims in Monday morning's small plane crash have been identified.

    More >
  • Kickstarter campaign launcher for 'Maverick Mural' of Sen. John McCain

    Kickstarter campaign launcher for 'Maverick Mural' of Sen. John McCain

    Tuesday, August 21 2018 12:35 AM EDT2018-08-21 04:35:51 GMT
    A local artist, an architect and a developer want to create a mural in honor of Sen. John McCain in Old Town Scottsdale. (Source: Chen+Suchart Studio)A local artist, an architect and a developer want to create a mural in honor of Sen. John McCain in Old Town Scottsdale. (Source: Chen+Suchart Studio)

    A local artist, architect and developer have started a Kickstarter campaign to create a 'Maverick Mural' in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, commemorating Sen. John McCain. 

    More >

    A local artist, architect and developer have started a Kickstarter campaign to create a 'Maverick Mural' in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, commemorating Sen. John McCain. 

    More >