Cingular Wireless files suit against a company involved in the H-P pretexting case


On Friday, Cingular Wireless filed a lawsuit against CAS Agency Inc. in U.S.District Court in Atlanta. Cingular claims that the company fraudulently accessed the records of one of its cutomers during the [tag]investigation [/tag]of the Hewlitt-Packard board of directors information leak.

Specifically, Cingular says CAS Agency illegally accessed the records of CNET reporter Dawn Kawamoto, one of the reporters who wrote about discussions among members of H-P’s board.

Also included in the lawsuit are 100 unidentified companies and 100 “John Does” who have attempted to obtain and sell customer records. This lawsuit follows the Verizon Wireless lawsuit filed on Thursday against 20 unidentified people who fraudulently obtained their records in cnnection with the H-P [tag]pretexting[/tag] scandal.

Ex-CEO of Comverse arrested in Africa


Kobi Alexander, the former CEO of Comverse Technology was arrested in the African republic of Namibia and is going to be extradited to the United States. Alexander is a citizen of both the U.S. and Israel, and has been missing for the last month, after he failed to show up for a hearing in federal court.

Alexander is the co-founder of Comverse, a telecommunications company in New York. He and two other former executives have been charged with [tag]conspiracy[/tag] to commit [tag]mail fraud[/tag], conspiracy to commit [tag]wire fraud[/tag], and conspiracy to commit [tag]securities fraud[/tag]. These charges related to their alleged plan to manipulate [tag]stock options[/tag].

The FBI issued a warrant for Alexander’s arrest on July 31. He reportedly was living openly in Namibia, a country which has an active Israeli expatriate community.

Enron Executive Sentenced to Prison


Andrew Fastow, former CFO of Enron, was sentenced to six years in federal prison today. Following his prison term, Fastow is required to serve two years of full-time community service.

Fastow reached a plea deal in early 2004, in which he agreed to plead guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud. That deal included a recommended prison sentence of 10 years, but Judge Kenneth Hoyt had discretion to sentence him to less time. Continue reading

Milwaukee Alderman Proposes Allowing Himself to Carry a Gun


Milwaukee Alderman Michael McGee (Jackson) has drafted an ordinance to allowed all alderman to be designated Peace Officers, and allow them to carry guns. This would include himself.

Recall that McGee/Jackson is without a driver’s license, due to the fact that license #1 was revoked because of an unresolved traffic incident. License #2 was revoked when it was determined that he got #2 with a false name, in order to get around the revocation of #1.

McGee/Jackson has also had numerous run-in with the legal authorities, including an incident in front of a Blockbuster Video where he got arrested for disorderly conduct. He publicly referred to the police officers involved in the Frank Jude Jr. beating “faggots”.

He’s been accused of physically abusing his mistress, which he denies. (But he also denied having a “romantic” relationship with her, and her new baby was proven to be his with a paternity test.) Additionally, McGee/Jackson has at least two different Social Security numbers.

Do we really want a guy like this carrying a gun?

Scam Busting: The Development of Charles Ponzi’s Pyramid Scheme


Ponzi demonstrated to himself that he could achieve astronomical profits with the postal reply coupons, a far better return on investment than interest paid by the banks or profits created in the stock market.

His investment pitch included the mention of the International Reply Coupons, as he was depending upon the legitimacy of the U.S. Postal Service to bolster his image. However, Ponzi was careful not to give away too many details of his plan, lest potential investors would become skeptical or steal his idea and start companies of their own. Continue reading

A Tour of New Orleans and the Damage Left by Hurricane Katrina


On Friday, I took a tour of New Orleans. Specifically, we took the Hurricane Katrina tour offered by Grayline Tours. Before I went to New Orleans, I was told by several people that the devastation is at a level that you cannot even imagine. That pictures and video footage cannot fully convey the damage.They were right.

It was amazing to see the buildings heavily damaged, and not even cleaned up or repaired at all in the last year. We saw water lines on many buildings, which showed exactly how high the water went. If you were lucky, it was only a few feet. If you were like most, it went up between six and twelve feet. Continue reading

Painter Thomas Kinkade is being investigated for fraud


Allegations of [tag]fraud[/tag] have been raised against “Painter of Light” Thomas Kinkade and his executives. The allegations that they induced investors to open art galleries and then ruined them financially are being investigated by the FBI.

To date, at least six former Thomas Kinkade Signature Gallery owners have filed civil suits against Kinkade. They claim they invested tens of thousands of dollars each, but that policies set up by Kinkade Co. drove them out of business. They said they had limited edition itgems that they couldent sell, they were forced to open stores in saturated markets, and that they were undercut by discounters who offered identical pieces at reduced prices, which they were prohibited to match.

The claims against Kinkade include allegations that he used Christianity to persuade them to invest in independent stores that only sell Kinkade’s works. They say he used the “Christian hook” to get them involved, but Kinkade denies this.

Former dealers have said that the FBI asked them to provide copies of certain information about their contracts with Kinkade, including dealer agreements, retail sales policies, and training materials from “Thomas Kinkade University”.

A spokesman for Kinkade Co. said, “The Thomas Kinkade Co. asserts that there is no legitimate grounds for a [tag]federal investigation[/tag] of any kind.” However, earlier this year an arbitration panel awarded $860,000 to two former owners of Kinkade galleries after they made similar allegations.

Scam Busting: Charles Ponzi and the early days of his pyramid scheme


Charles Ponzi was born Carlo Ponzi, the only child of a family that lived comfortably in Italy. Although they had a comfortable life, they never lived up to the affluence Ponzi later bragged about. His family did have enough to send him to college, but he squandered the money and never received a degree.

Ashamed over disappointing his mother, Ponzi immigrated to the United States from Italy in 1903. He was certain that he would become rich there, and his mother would once again be proud of him.

Ponzi held many jobs, but none of them brought the success he imagined. After several years, he made an unwise decision to steal and forge a check, an act that go Ponzi a three year prison sentence. That was quickly followed by a two year prison term for smuggling illegal aliens into the United States.

After the second stint in prison, Ponzi began searching for the “opportunity” that would make him rich and famous. He believed in himself and his ability to come up with what he termed the next .Great Idea.. He had many ideas that never gained any real momentum, but it doesn’t appear that he initially set out to defraud anyone.

In Boston in late 1919, Ponzi finally came up with his idea to utilize postal reply coupons to generate investment returns. Postal reply coupons were a popular way to exchange letters with families overseas. They were meant to make it easier to send mail to other countries. A writer of a letter could purchase a coupon at the local post office to prepay the postage for a reply letter. The recipient merely turned in the coupon at his local post office for stamps.

There were no limits on the number of coupons that could be purchased or traded for stamps. Charles Ponzi determined that changes in currency exchange rates, coupled with the proper purchase and exchange of postal reply coupons, could create profits. And so the Securities Exchange Company came to be. Ponzi wisely chose an official-sounding name for his venture so as to appear legitimate from the start.

Barry Minkow on CBS’s 60 Minutes


A few weeks ago, famed fraudster Barry Minkow was on 60 Minutes on CBS. Barry was a mere 22 years old when he was sent to prison for 57 counts of fraud, convicted of defrauding banks and investors with his company ZZZZ Best Carpet cleaning.

At age 20, ZZZZ Best was a $300 million company and Barry was the CEO. His fraud is so notorious, that colleges and universities regularly use the ZZZZ Best story as a case study in accounting classes. Continue reading

Dog the Bounty Hunter arrested


Famed bounty hunter Duane “Dog” Chapman was arrested last week on federal charges of illegal detention and conspiracy in an alleged kidnapping three years ago. Also arrested were his son Leland Chapman and his brother Tim Chapman. The Chapmans are well-known for their A&E show, “[tag]Dog the Bounty Hunter[/tag]”.
The arrest is related to Dog’s capture of fugitive (and Max Factor heir) Andrew Luster on June 18, 2003. Luster was captured in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico after fleeing the United States during his trial on over 80 rape charges. Luster was convicted of the crimes and sentenced to 124 years in prison.

In an A&E television special about the Chapmans, a video shows Dog, his associates, and Mexican police taking Andrew Luster into custody in 2003. After the capture, the three Chapmans were arrested by Mexican officials. Allegedly, the group of Chapmans refused to transfer Luster to the Mexican police. This led to their arrest, and a video shows a Mexican official telling Dog that he is under arrest for “unlawful deprivation of individuals”. The Chapmans were held for a week, but were able to post bail and return to the United States. The three men said that the 7 days in the Mexican jail were hard to forget.

Dog, Leland, and Tim never returned to Puerto Vallarta for the July 15, 2003 court hearing, and a warrant was issued for their arrest.

On September 14, 2006, Federal Marshalls went to Dog’s residence in Honolulu with a warrant for his arrest. Leland and Tim Chapman were also arrested on the same day. They were taken to a federal prison, the same prison which housed some of their previous bounties. They were threatened over and over by these criminals. Due to the danger level, the Chapmans were all placed in the Secure Housing Unit (SHU) for their own safety.

The three were given $300,000 bail and relased with ankle bracelets and house-arrest restrictions. Dog fears that they could be extradited to Mexico. If they are put on trial in Mexico and convicted, they could spend 4 years in a Mexican prison.

In the words of Dog:

“Truth and justice has to prevail. It has to prevail. It has to.”