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Gone But Not Forgotten
Sep 25, 2003
This is a strange one. A very strange one I should have said.

Bogus spy 'took students on run'

A man conned three students into going on the run from imaginary IRA terrorists, a court has heard.

Robert Hendy-Freegard, 33, of the High Street in Blythe, Notts, is accused of taking money from his victims and forcing them to endure squalid lives.

Blackfriars Crown Court, London, was told he persuaded the three that he was an MI5 agent, their lives were in danger and only he could help them.

Mr Hendy-Freegard denies charges of theft, kidnap and threats to kill.

Female students

The court heard that in 1992 and 1993 Mr Hendy-Freegard was working at the Swan pub in Newport, Shropshire, close to Harpers Adams Agricultural College.

There he befriended 34-year-old John Atkinson, who was told he had been singled out for a mission investigating an active IRA cell in the college.

Mr Atkinson gave evidence that Mr Hendy-Freegard blindfolded him and punched him, saying he needed toughening up and to learn some control.

Two female students, Maria Hendy and Sarah Smith, were then persuaded to follow them around the country.

More victims

The three were told not to contact their families because their phones were bugged by the IRA, the court heard.

Mr Hendy-Freegard spent around £600,000 on holidays and expensive living while the three students lived in squalid conditions in a series of "safe houses", it was claimed.

Ms Hendy also began a relationship with Mr Hendy-Freegard and gave birth to two daughters by him.

Over a 10-year period three other women were also conned into giving him access to their bank accounts, the court heard.

Mr Hendy-Freegard denies four charges of kidnap, one of making threats to kill, eight counts of theft and five of obtaining money by deception.

The trial continues.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/10/22 15:32:27 GMT

I couldn't find a thread with quite this theme, so I'm starting this one. This story appeared on today's World Wide Words newsletter:

"Back in the 1850s, a gold brick was just that - a brick-shaped block of gold that had been cast at a mine for easy transport away.

A writer in Harper's New Monthly Magazine in 1888 described a gold brick cast in Montana as being "a trifle larger than the common clay brick", but weighing 509 ounces or nearly 32 pounds (roughly 14.5 kg). But as a result of what the newspapers at the time called "the celebrated gold brick swindle" of October 1879, the term took on a different meaning.

What happened was that Mr N D Clark, the president of the First National Bank of Ravenna, Ohio, was visiting a mine he owned at Leadville in Colorado. He was approached by five miners, who asked him to advance money on a 52-pound gold brick, which for some reason they weren't able to ship at the time. The owner told a hard-luck story about having lost all his property and urgently needing money. Mr Clark had the brick taken to a blacksmith, who cut off one corner. An assayer pronounced the gold to be genuine and Mr Clark advanced the miner $10,000 on condition the brick, and the miner, accompanied him to Chicago to get the balance. The miner, of course, vanished off the train on the way; Mr Clark found to his chagrin that the gold brick was like the curate's egg - good in parts. The corners were gold right enough but the body of the brick was worthless.

The ringleader, a man named Peter Lavin, was later caught, though the record is silent on what happened to him. This wasn't the first attempt at this style of fraud, but since confidence tricksters aren't that imaginative, a number of copycat attempts at selling people fake gold bricks followed. The phrase "to sell someone a gold brick" went into the language meaning to swindle and "to gold brick" came to mean perpetrating a fraud. (It killed the old literal sense stone dead; everyone began to call them ingots instead.)

Your sense was originally US Army slang, which clearly grew out of this. In the early 1900s, "gold brick" was used for an unattractive young woman (in 1903, midshipmen went on record that a "gold brick" was a girl who could neither talk, dance, nor look pretty). This is presumably from the idea of a gold brick being a fraud. Incompetent officers appointed from civilian life at the start of the First World War with only minimal training were likewise called gold bricks by enlisted men.

At some point during that War, the term was extended to refer to anybody not pulling his weight, a malingerer or loafer. This would seem to have grown up not so much from the idea of a person being a fraud (though that presumably contributed) but from that of a criminal who would do anything, including sell fake gold bricks, rather than do an honest day's work."

Any more good fraud stories out there?
Gullible Paris banks fall victim to 'surrealist' sting

A gang that tricked Paris banks out of millions of euros by pretending to hunt down money-laundering by terrorists perpetrated what French investigators called a "perfectly incredible and surrealist" sting.

French police on Monday arrested two members of the gang and were hunting for the other three, including the alleged mastermind, Gilbert C., who they said had fled to Israel.

The scammers carried out their operation by having one of their number present himself to the banks as an international bank director helping Western anti-terrorist officials track down suspicious money transfers.

He backed up his story by giving details on some of the banks' richest clients and supplying information about certain transfers.

He then told the banks they would receive a visit from an agent from France's DGSE counter-espionage service who would ask them to secretly collaborate so the 'money-laundering rings' could be infiltrated.

Some 20 banks were approached, according to investigators, and several complied.

In July, one unidentified establishment provided 350,000 euros in cash to a woman gang member posing as the DGSE operative.

In September, they changed tactics slightly, convincing some banks to redirect funds they said were being used to finance terrorist groups to different accounts.

One bank sent 2.5 million dollars to a Geneva account, another two million euros was sent to a Hong Kong account and five million euros was sent to an account in Estonia.

An alert raised by one of the warier banks allowed police to block the first two of the September transfers, but the third was allegedly pocketed by Gilbert C. before the noose closed.

Police found the gang had set up a myriad of screen companies controlled from abroad.

The suspected mastermind was "impossible to catch" and "worthy of the best" of the world's scam-artists, one investigator said.

I'm not sure where the "surrealist" part comes in though, it just looks like a run of the mill, if rather successful, scam.

I was kind of hoping people had held up the banks with a lobster rather than a gun.
C'est ne pas un homard.

(Just give me the money.)
rynner said:
C'est ne pas un homard.

(Just give me the money.)

Couldn't be said simpler. :yeay:

What happens to the money that was sent to their Geneva and Hong Kong accounts though?
I was kind of hoping people had held up the banks with a lobster rather than a gun.

That happened once in Central London. It was in that bank over the road from Kings Crustacean.

I'll get me coat
MaxMolyneux said:
What happens to the money that was sent to their Geneva and Hong Kong accounts though?

I don't think the police can get access to the details to those accounts, or at least it takes them a while and by the time they've sorted through the red tape the money will have been transferred to offshore banks in the Cayman Islands and other locations. Once there, I'd imagine they transfer it again or withdraw and pay it in cash into various other accounts.
hokum6 said:
MaxMolyneux said:
What happens to the money that was sent to their Geneva and Hong Kong accounts though?

I don't think the police can get access to the details to those accounts, or at least it takes them a while and by the time they've sorted through the red tape the money will have been transferred to offshore banks in the Cayman Islands and other locations. Once there, I'd imagine they transfer it again or withdraw and pay it in cash into various other accounts.

They still get their cash then but can't use it when arrested. :lol:
Marilyn Monroe's Memory Defrauded in Long Beach - The Truth Is Here
February 06, 2006
Mark Bellinghaus
Did you see that psychic on Entertainment Tonight in December, James Van Praagh? He had one of Marilyn Monroe's hair curlers -- it even had a Marilyn hair on it -- and this guy was listening to Marilyn talk to him right on the air. Spooky!

Those curlers are a highlight of "Marilyn Monroe, The Exhibit," a display that opened November 11, 2005, on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California; advertised as the largest private collection of Marilyn memorabilia ever assembled, a collection with the claimed worth of $10 million dollars.

But I have a small problem with those hair curlers: it took only the briefest Internet research and a call to Clairol to establish that they were first manufactured in 1974. Marilyn passed away in 1962. I wonder which dead blonde Van Praagh WAS talking to.

(Photo: A highlight "Marilyn Monroe, The Exhibit" - a Clairol 20 Instant hairsetter from 1974. Monroe died in 1962)

The hair curlers are not authentic and that "$10 million" exhibit isn't worth more than $25 to $30 thousand. The people behind the exhibit are not telling the truth.

The principals in this story are:

ROBERT W. OTTO, 56, President of Marilyn Monroe Exhibits;
MARK ROESLER, 46, head and founder of CMG licensing;
JUNE DiMAGGIO, 82, who claims to be a niece of Joe DiMaggio and a close friend of Marilyn;
MARY JANE POPP, 55 (?), actress, infomercial and radio host, she is helping June write her story;
HUGH HEFNER, 79, Mr. Playboy, he gives credit to Marilyn for his magazine's success, but threw her to the wolves.

Let's begin with the most outrageous character, June DiMaggio. Who is she? The last name itself generates interest and memories of the sweet past, the Yankee Clipper, Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson." But now I want to change the famous lyric of the latter to "Where have you come from, June DiMaggio?" She appeared out of nowhere, joining the media circus without explaining where she was hiding while her legendary uncle Joe was alive.

CBS is reportedly planning a 48 Hours special on Marilyn Monroe this month, supposedly with June DiMaggio, and we look forward to the funny but absurd little stories she seems to have dreamed up and written down in her fictional "memoir," Marilyn, Joe and Me!, her "what if?" journal.

I watched her last November during the press opening for "Marilyn Monroe, The Exhibit" at the Queen Mary, and it was a weird, unreal experience - like a theatre performance gone bad. When talking about Marilyn, she shouted and stuttered, then regained her composure and resumed (it seemed to me) her rehearsed lines.

Let's begin with her most excusable untruth, her age. She claims to be 77, but for a former actress and dancer, knocking five years off is forgivable; not so when it comes to twisting facts and fabricating fictions about one of the biggest and best-loved movie stars of the 20th century. June says she was great friends with Marilyn Monroe, and that her mother, Lee, wife of Tom DiMaggio (one of Joe's eight siblings), was Marilyn's closest friend and even knew who murdered her. Lee was supposedly chatting with Marilyn on the phone when the killer walked into the icon's bedroom. Lee never told, because "she wanted her children to live."

During June DiMaggio's November interviews, her co-writer Mary Jane Popp -- actress, infomercial and radio host -- always stood close by her side and sometimes gave the answers for her. In some ways June reminded me of a marionette being dragged from one stage to the next, with her explosive news on Marilyn Monroe. She gave interviews even in the hallways, repeating over and over, "THAT IS THE TRUTH!" and "YOU CAN READ ALL ABOUT THIS IN MY BOOK!"

CBS recently referred to June as "the last DiMaggio," but that's not so: Joe's baseball-playing brother Dom is still with us. When I called him at his home in Florida, Dom DiMaggio confirmed to me that "June DiMaggio is not the biological daughter of my brother Tom." So June is related, but only through her mother Lee - she is a step-DiMaggio.

In my research, I find no evidence at all that Monroe was even friendly with Lee or June DiMaggio. A San Francisco newspaper story on Marilyn and Joe's wedding has Lee and Tom on the guest list, but June is not mentioned. The names of Lee and June do not appear in any of the four known Monroe personal address books. How do I know? I know the owners of these books and asked them to look for me. June DiMaggio and her mother Lee are not listed in any of them, while, for example, Joe DiMaggio and his son Joe Jr. are present in all of them.

In the December Playboy interview, June DiMaggio claims to have attended the funeral of Marilyn Monroe ("as I was riding along with my uncle Joe in a limousine..."). There are numerous photos of Joe's limo for that day - none include June DiMaggio.

We also have a witness who can testify to June's absence: funeral director Allan Abbott, 68, was a pallbearer at Marilyn's funeral. At Joe DiMaggio's request, he also stood at the door checking off the names on the brief guest list, handing programs to each person on the list. He told me he'd never heard the name June DiMaggio in his life. Ernest Cunningham's book The Ultimate Marilyn identifies the small group of invited guests - June is missing.

(Photo by Leigh Wiener: as Marilyn Monroe's casket is being introduced to her final resting place, Allan Abbot on the corner to the coffin, Joe DiMaggio and his son are sitting in the second row. Again: where is June DiMaggio?)

Allan Abbott was 24 at the time Monroe was buried, but his memory is still fresh. This man's statement was the true reason I continued in my investigations. My deepest appreciation goes out to him, a man who had the honor of carrying Marilyn Monroe's casket to her crypt where we can still visit her, pay tribute, and weep.

June is the latest in a long line of Marilyn frauds: men and women coming out of nowhere, claiming to be Marilyn Monroe's son or daughter (or husband or lover, whatever). There's a man claiming to be the illegitimate son of Marilyn and JFK, insisting that the three of them had lived openly in Marilyn's Brentwood home. There was Robert Slatzer, who passed away last year, who claimed (with nothing to document it) that he had been married to Marilyn.

Publicity for the Queen Many exhibit states that 90% of the Monroe memorabilia was bought from June DiMaggio and Joe Franklin. June says she got her items directly from Marilyn. The problem is that there's nothing to prove that any of the June junk is authentic - no photos, no documentation. (Unless you're willing to accept the word of the ET psychic.) The other items are from eBay and from questionable sellers, some of whom are being investigated by the FBI.

How do you authenticate an item? Keep reading, I'll explain it in a bit.

The next player in this trashy affair is Robert W. Otto, who came to collector's fame overnight. In an interview with Los Angeles Times writer Robert W. Welkos, on November 11, 2005, Otto explained the reason that no other Marilyn collectors had ever heard of him:

"Because I kept a low profile and courted those people who actually knew Marilyn and acquired items from them."

Otto also mentioned NYC radio host Joe Franklin, who has sold many items from the famous guests who had appeared on his show. But here again, not ONE item came with a picture of Marilyn wearing it. Not one! Otto also says, "I also chose not to collect the bigger show pieces."

Okay, so what about the strapless pink gown that Marilyn famously wore while singing "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend"? A press release says that it's on display at the entrance to the exhibit

. . . but it's just a cheap copy. You can find it on eBay for $25.00.

In all fairness, the exhibit has a few real Monroe-owned pieces, but Otto purchased them when they were offered the second or third time around (when nobody placed a bid on them). There's a green Pucci combo which originally sold as Lot #288 in the big Christie's auction in 1999. This item came up again, this time in a Profiles In History auction on March 31, 2004. When it didn't sell, Otto bought it for below the original estimate. In any interview for the promotion of the exhibit, he made sure that this particular combo would be visible in the background.

Otto visited but didn't participate in the huge Monroe estate sale at Christie's, though he has subsequently bought items on eBay or at live auctions which originated there. Mixing lesser authentic items into a collection grounded in fraud is still fraud..

I have in my possession signed witness statements from several Marilyn collectors who can identify items in the Queen Mary exhibit as being bought through eBay.

Robert Otto contacted me as well, in July of 2004, under his eBay screen name "PinkDoodleDandy1" (nomen est omen?), seeking to buy Marilyn memorabilia. I first thought he was kidding when he offered me a jokingly low amount for a Marilyn belt. She was wearing this item when she walked out of her 508 N. Palm Drive, Beverly Hills home, tearfully announcing to the press that she was getting a divorce from Joe DiMaggio.

She wore the same belt when she revealed that she was going to marry Arthur Miller. I have photos of her wearing the belt, which was made by JAX. I bought the belt at the Christie's sale.

In the L.A. Times interview, Otto was also asked why there were no photos of Marilyn wearing the clothing on display. His answer was that, as with anyone else, the clothing Marilyn wore in private didn't appear in photos.

Is that so? Look at the photo here: it shows Marilyn in nothing but private clothing! She hung on to these checkered pants she had worn as Norma Jeane, posing on the beach for numerous private shoots. Later, she wore them for top photographers like the legendary Alfred Eisenstaedt.

Those same pants are visible in numerous photo sessions throughout her career - proving that she was a very simple person, and that she held on to the items she'd had before she became a mega-star, sex symbol, and the most photographed woman in the world.

Moving right along . . .

On her last day, August 4th, Marilyn supposedly asked June to make her an anchovy pizza, and June says she did. But then Junie goes way too far - she claims she went to Monroe's home, after the star's body was removed, to retrieve her pizza pan. But it was a crime scene; all doors had been sealed by the LAPD. But June apparently walked into the house unnoticed, retrieved her precious pizza pan -- plus a teddy bear and one of Marilyn's nightgowns -- all of them now prominently on display in Otto's exhibition on the Queen Mary. There is no way any of this could have happened. Also, if Monroe really ate that anchovy pizza, or anything else for that matter, why did the autopsy find no food in her stomach?

June DiMaggio's book was announced for December '05. Did the publisher get cold feet? Maybe he was nervous after the Oprah Winfrey/James Frey scare? When pitching her book, June promised, "Any female who buys my book will receive a copy of the pre-engagement ring my uncle gave to Marilyn!" This is just another tale without any proof. And PROOF is what I was looking for all through my investigation.

My colleague Sherry Dodd actually interviewed June DiMaggio and asked if she owned any pictures of herself with either her famous uncle, baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, or her famous friend of eleven years, Marilyn Monroe. Her answer was a simple, "No, I do not, I am sorry!" That answer added to the suspicions I had had from the start: how can someone NOT have any sort of documentation for the serious and spectacular claims she makes?

"But it happened!" she says.

There is more literature on Marilyn Monroe than on most American presidents. But after decades of extensive research, the name of good-friend June is not found in any of the Marilyn books. Why? And why has June DiMaggio waited all these years to come forward with her story? Could it be that she waited until Joe DiMaggio was dead, unable to refute any of her statements?

If you've seen the advertising for the exhibit -- billboards, newspaper ads, banners -- you will have noticed Marilyn's trademarked signature, which indicates that the estate of Marilyn Monroe approves.

The estate of Marilyn Monroe is standing behind the exhibit (also as a sponsor), scheduled to tour the world, asking unsuspecting people to pay an outrageous $22.95 per person to see the most absurd and possibly the tackiest presentation of Marilyn Monroe-related items ever.

Mark Roesler, 46, the head and founder of the CMG licensing agency, represents Marilyn Monroe and, strangely enough, the estate of Joe DiMaggio as well. He is also the executor of Anna Strasberg, the second wife and widow of Lee Strasberg, Marilyn's acting coach. He represents James Dean and many more of the dead Who's Who of the entertainment industry. Roesler is supporting Robert W. Otto's exhibit, calling it "the largest collection of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia in the world," which is absolute nonsense. Roesler has several interviews on his website, which further proves the collaboration of convenience between June DiMaggio, Robert Otto and him.

On his weekly live webcast, Roesler twice invited Otto into his CMG office and together they went through the would-be Marilyn items with Otto weaving stories about them out of thin air.

For example, Otto showed an engraved bracelet and created an elaborate story, as if he had been there in person, explaining exactly when, where and why Marilyn owned that particular item. You are almost tempted to believe him . . . but I have witnesses that the man is everything but an "historian of Marilyn Monroe," as Roesler introduced him.

Roesler had two different Otto interviews on his web site, which have been subsequently pulled.

In one interview with Roesler, Otto mentions how they were together at the 1999 Christie's auction, and indicates how much money a pair of Monroe's Ferragamo stilettos had sold for. Then Otto holds up the Clairol hair rollers which I described earlier. I was dumbfounded to see all these items, because I recognized many of them from earlier eBay auctions. I'll say it again: none of the items originated from the estate of Marilyn Monroe, owned by Anna Strasberg, client of Mark Roesler.

If "Marilyn Monroe: the Exhibit" were authentic, it would truly be an experience to walk through and to feel the essence, the private and personal taste of a rare and unique legend!

The only time I felt the power and presence of REAL Marilyn Monroe memorabilia was when I walked through the preview display for the 1999 Christie's auction. The highlight was the presentation of the "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" gown - which was rolled out in dimmed light, with the familiar voice of Marilyn singing "Happy Birthday, Mr. President . . . and when spotlights hit the rhinestones, still sparkling after 37 years, I got goosebumps all over. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The Otto exhibit is obviously trying to copy that experience, which is just impossible. Consider the blond wig that he claims is from the movie Some Like it Hot, and which is displayed front to back (why, if not for people to see how new it is?) but which could have been bought on Hollywood Blvd. (or Times Square)! To my knowledge -- and I was present when he won his bid -- the only item that Mark Roessler purchased was the wig Monroe wore in the movie The Misfits, which sold as Lot #350 for a whopping $29,900.

Now comes my question: Why is that wig not on display on the Queen Mary?

But you don't need to be an expert to tell the difference between the wig that Roesler won, and the brand new wig in the Otto collection. If they were displayed together, anyone could tell the difference: the real one was stored for 37 years and the natural deterioration is visible. Such deterioration is missing from the wig on display. Also, most of the dresses look to be in excellent condition, as if they had just been picked up from the dry cleaner.

Marilyn's favorite brands are well known: JAX, MADCAP, Geistex, Jaeger, Emilio Pucci, Saks Fifth Avenue, Ferragamo and others . . . none of which are on display on the Queen Mary, except for the green Pucci described earlier.

There's another story from June that I'd never heard. She says she gave Marilyn a painted mirror, which the star always carried. The mirror is displayed next to a pair of deteriorating shoes - and these got my interest, because of the state they were in. Finally, an authentic piece? No such luck! The shoes have red and green rhinestones attached and are simply too much for Marilyn: we know that she dressed very simply in private. And I can assure you that if we made DNA tests of the real hair of Marilyn that I own (included in Anna Strasberg's treasures from storage), then we could also prove these are most likely thriftstore finds or even June DiMaggio's relics, but definitely not shoes that Marilyn wore!

There's no Marilyn story sadder, more shocking, than that of Bebe Goddard, Marilyn's foster sister, with whom Marilyn spent part of her teenage years. Bebe sold fraudulent Marilyn items at auctions and over the Internet, and items are still being sold in her name. Letters which prove this charge were found in her belongings after her death and are sad witness to the sellout of a legend. Bebe Goddard's items are restricted from the traditional auction houses like Christie's or Sotheby's, but you'll find them all over eBay.

Also restricted forever are items from another well-known fraud: Elaine Barrymore, the last wife of the great John Barrymore. Elaine passed away several years ago, but criminal (eBay) sellers are making a fortune in copying her signed letter and selling rubbish as the belongings of Marilyn Monroe. Mr. Otto has quite a collection of Barrymore items.

Also in the Queen Mary exhibit is a pair of white cat-eye sunglasses, also in brand-new condition. I have in my collection two pairs of original and real glasses (also originating from the estate of Marilyn Monroe), with deterioration that has almost destroyed them - but that is the beauty of it; because that is also a sign of its authenticity.

I could go on and on but let me just mention a few more items: a fur jacket with the initials MD (Marilyn DiMaggio), which comes with an absurd, never-before-heard story: "Joe gave this jacket to Marilyn, but she got upset because she liked her stage name so much." June continued with all these strange and never-before-heard accusations, which convinced me that June had met Marilyn as often as I had - and she died before I was born.

Then there's the engraving myth! Almost 50% of the jewelry in Otto's collection has "MM" engravings, and even the travel bags and suitcase (in uncommon red) carry MM engravings. That is absolutely wrong: in the bona fide Christie's estate sale there was only one item (aside from the trophies and awards that she had won) that was engraved, and that was not by Monroe, but for her!

Otto and Co. tried to create a Monroe the way they wanted to see her: in the way they saw her, for example, in the August 16, 1999, People magazine feature on the big Christie's auction. The Queen Mary exhibit has items very similar in style to those from Christie's, but which any expert could identify as phony. Otto is displaying just too many items with rhinestones attached, which shows no knowledge of Marilyn's personal likes and dislikes.

There's Marilyn's tennis racket . . . but we know she hated all sports and was only posing with a racket for photos. Also note that she's wearing high heels! June says she taught Monroe how to type and, by sheer coincidence, there's the typewriter in Otto's exhibit. And so on.

Does June Dimaggio or Otto have any sort of photographic proof? Since Monroe was the most photographed woman in the world, surely it would have been a simple matter to have a snapshot of Marilyn and June happily sitting at the piano; the very piano which June DiMaggio says Marilyn used to rehearse her "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" song.

The storytelling goes on and on and people seriously seem to believe her, but June goes too far; goes overboard with her accusations, as from her overdue book:

"Since Marilyn was always welcome in our home, I kept a terrycloth robe for her to lounge in after a shower, along with a clean T-shirt and a pair of her own jeans for her to change into."

And, "Marilyn couldn't afford emotions when she had to sleep with wrinkled old men to survive the business."

"There were times when she would come home exhausted from a day's shoot and some powerful old geezer would telephone and her skin would crawl. After the horrors of her studio sex she would come over and stay in our shower for an hour or more. She wanted to wash away the terrible indignities she'd had to endure. Then she'd sit down to dinner and ask for second helpings."

Naturally, those jeans are displayed on the Queen Mary, as June must have known that they would be worth something, five decades later. We are presented with Marilyn Monroe, the Star of the '50s, in Portrait of a Sex Slave. Absolute nonsense!

Paying visitors to the exhibit also should know that Otto includes in his collection the most trivial and inexpensive items: dozens of bottles of MM wine, MM dolls, paper doll cutouts, insignificant books, plates, handbags, and such distasteful items as a doll of Marilyn as a troll. There's a bobble-head Marilyn doll at the entrance to the exhibit, which should tip you off as to what's in store.

Hugh Hefner is included in this documentation of wrongs committed against Marilyn and the paying public because he has always freely admitted his indebtedness to Marilyn, when her sensational "Golden Dreams" nude photo helped launch her career and his.

Hefner lent his presence to the opening night of the Marilyn exhibit and devoted the cover of the December Playboy and three feature stories to her, and it would be hard to say which one is most disgusting.

Story #1 was a rehash of Marilyn the Murder Mystery, which begins with a reference to Marilyn's attic being stuffed with sophisticated listening devices . . . this in a dollhouse of a Spanish hacienda that had no closets, much less an attic!

Story #2 was the ramblings and fantasies of June DiMaggio, already discussed.

Story #3 is the recollections of 88-year-old John Miner, former L.A. deputy district attorney, who says he listened to tape recordings Marilyn made for her psychiatrist. Miner claims that the tapes prove Marilyn was in a non-suicidal mood and so, obviously, she must have been murdered. But the woman Miner transcribes is a silly, frivolous, bobble-head blonde - Lorelei Lee maybe, not Marilyn Monroe. Miner calls for a champion to demand a new autopsy, to prove murder, and apparently Hugh Hefner is going to take up the banner. God help us, and Marilyn.

Heffner long ago bought the crypt next to Marilyn's in Westwood Memorial Cemetery. He is also, by the way, another client of Mark Roesler.

Tricksters and con men get caught because they don't do their homework. The Hitler Diaries were a sensation in 1983, and much money changed hands until some suspicious soul found that the paper and the ink in the diaries had been made after the War.

If the people behind the Marilyn deceptions had done their homework, they would have known that haciendas don't have attics; that hair rollers show the year they were made; that more has been documented about the life of Marilyn Monroe, and more photos taken, than of most any other figure of the 20th century; and therefore we do know quite a bit about her. We know her styles and colors and sizes and designers and flavors. She sang songs about rhinestones, but she didn't wear them.

We also know that saying something is so doesn't make it so.

Robert Otto states that his exhibit is to tour for 10 to 12 years, visiting 39 cities on six continents. It must have been a success so far, as it was scheduled to close this month but now it has been extended until June 8th, 2006 - no doubt an attempt to capitalize on Marilyn Monroe's 80th birthday celebration (on June 1st, 2006) to draw more victims into the show.

I tried to bring this case to the attention of the Long Beach, California, police department, then to city hall, including the mayor's office (Mayor Beverly O'Neill), the attorney general, the district attorney, the city attorney - and whoever else had an office in that building and seemed important. I wanted an injunction against this fraudulent exhibit. But I found no response, no interest, no reaction at all. I always heard the same excuse: that the Queen Mary is a leased property and the City of Long Beach has no power in that matter.

I thought of handcuffing myself to the historic ocean liner and holding up a protest banner. What if I went on a hunger strike, or even threatened to jump off the ship?

The Queen Mary corporation was contacted, with numerous messages left on their answering machine and numerous messages ignored (incidentally, the corporation has declared bankruptcy). But I did not give up. Knowledge and belief kept me going.

This hoax, this scandal surrounding Marilyn Monroe must be exposed. The exhibit needs to be shut down. Ticket purchasers should ask for their money back. The thriving powers behind the scam should apologize. Though the scam was poorly planned from the beginning, it seems that they are getting away with it. When the estate of Marilyn Monroe sold her personal belongings and most intimate items for $13,404,785 in '99, they gave away their chance for a 100% authentic exhibit that could have become legendary.

I consider it a privilege to defend Marilyn Monroe against the people mentioned above. I am not afraid of a lawsuit from the powerful CMG or any of the other figures mentioned, as I have something valuable that they don't have - PROOF; proof in the form of witness statements, photos, documents, biographical statements, and my own in-depth knowledge, plus encouragement from Marilyn Monroe fans and admirers from all over the world.
I was surprised by the origin of the term "Confidence Man". I had always imagined that it had it's origin in sophisticated swindles. It was actually first used to describe a petty thief named William Thompson who used the phrase:

“have you confidence in me to trust me with your watch until to-morrow;”

So much for my fantasies of suave men, heiresses and family vaults.
There is the scam described by Edgar Allan Poe as "salt and batter". Basically the trickster approaches someone in a public venue, and abruptly and bizarrely insults them so grossly that they reflexively lash out, "assault and batter". Then the mark gets sued, and the truth sounds so outlandish that he ends up paying a huge settlement.
Here's a good one, from The Everything Tall Tales, Legends & Outrageous Lies Book by Nat Segaloff:

The Pedigreed Pooch

All good cons presume a high level of venality on the part of their victim, but the pedigreed pooch swindle is one that has a special place in the hearts of animal lovers. This one was performed by two of the most skillful con artists of all time: Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil and Fred Buckminster.

Here's how it went: Weil struts into a barroom leading a well-groomed dog (this was in the days when dogs and cigars were allowed into eating and drinking establishments). He chats up the bartender and announces that he is killing time before "the most important business meeting of my life." Unfortunately, he can't bring his beloved pet. Weil whips out pedigree papers attesting to the value of the dog, and offers the bartender a fast $10 if he watches the animal for an hour. Of course, the bartender agrees, and Weil leaves for his crucial meeting.

Not 10 minutes later, Fred Buckminster enters the bar. His eye is immediately caught by the dog, and he excitedly asks the bartender, "Do you know how valuable this animal is? Why, I'll pay you a hundred dollars for it right this instant!"

The bartender, of course, refuses.

"I'll make it two hundred," Buckminster enthuses.

Hanging onto whatever vestige of honesty he has, the bartender says, "But it isn't mine to sell."

"Nonsense," counters Buckminster. "I'll make it three hundred if you can persuade the owner to sell it." He hands the bartender a $50 bill, adding, "Here's a down payment. I'm in room 315 at the Plaza Hotel. Call me when you've made the deal." Then he leaves.

After the bartender stews for 45 minutes, Weil returns looking utterly crushed. "I'm ruined," he confesses. "My business meeting was a complete washout. I have no money."

At this point the bartender's wheels start turning and he says, "Let me help you out." I'll pay you a hundred bucks for your dog."

"Oh, I could never get rid of my beloved pup," Weil says, near tears.

"I'll make it two hundred," the bartender offers, secretly computing that he already has $60 ($10 from Weil and $50 from Buckminster, who had promised to pay him an additional $250 upon delivery). So, after paying the $200, he will still clear an easy $90.

"Well," says Weil, "Okay."

The bartender hands Weil $200 for the dog and heads over to the Plaza to complete the transaction. Naturally, there is no Buckminster staying there, and the bartender finds himself the owner of a stray mutt that has cost him $140.

Weil and Buckminster, meanwhile, cleared $140 on an outlay of $60. Since they were effortlessly pulling the pedigreed pooch scam on 10 bartenders per afternoon, they had no trouble raising a fair-size bankroll before word got around.
I used to work in retail and saw all sorts of scams over the years. The funniest one was when I got a call from one of the girls on the till to come over, I was in the back-shop at the time cashing up a till.

As I went over to the till I noticed a middle-aged gentleman stood there with about 5 boxes of 1.5 kg washing powder. Now to take a deep breath, the man explained that his relatives from New Zealand had been in the previous day and purchased these 5 boxes of washing powder. They had tried to take them back to New Zealand on the aeroplane but were stopped at customs and ordered to leave the boxes of powder behind as they were deemed to be "hazardous substances". Our friend here was merely being a good relative and trying to get a refund on the boxes of powder, about £15.

Needless to say I could not keep a straight face. I asked him if he had a receipt. Non was forthcoming, "but honest guv I'm just trying to do these people a favour!"

I told him I would have to go and talk to "the manager", in fact I was the manager, but Mr.Confidence-trickster did not know that. So into the back-shop I went, and to be honest this is the best way to deal with these people. Once you have ascertained that they are not a violent threat, just leave them standing there telling them you must seek counsel with a higher authority. It makes them nervous as hell, they think you are phoning the police and they usually scarper. Which true to form our friend did, leaving the 5 boxes of powder behind at the till.

But where did he get the 5 boxes of powder from in the first place I hear you call? Well I had been notified of this kind of scam before, and on a hunch rewound the CCTV tape 15 minutes and watched the footage that was trained on the washing powder aisle, and there he was our friend the Con-Man. As brazen as a hussy, he picked up 5 boxes of powder from the shelf and walked around the shop to make it look to the young girl on the till, like he had just walked through the front door. He then made his attempt to butter up the "mark", until I thwarted his dastardly plans.
Thanks for that story, Zeph.

I've just emailed it to my work colleagues at ROCS!
Another one from World Wide Words:
BLACK DOLLARS This term usually refers to money belonging to black Americans, but another sense turned up this week in reports of a
London libel case.

Black dollars are black pieces of paper. In parts of Africa and India some people believe that if these are dipped in the appropriate chemicals, they turn into real US dollar bills. Fraudsters have reportedly sold paper dyed black to gullible businessmen. The scam reported this week added another level of confusion by alleging that red mercury was needed to make the change. This would be difficult, as red mercury doesn't exist. It
was supposedly a powerful explosive that could be used to make
fusion bombs; it was invented by the KGB during the Cold War as a
sting for terrorists. If they tried to buy it they were arrested.
At a car boot sale here recently, a trader was shown two lovely laptops, in cases with all the accessories. He managed to haggle the two Polish sellers down to £700 for both, and rushed off to the bank.

You can see where this is going, can't you... :roll:

On his return, the money and laptop cases were exchanged with much handshaking and backslapping, and the sellers were waved on their way.

Whereupon the trader opened his laptop cases to find a curiously lo-tech mixture of potatoes and gravel.

I heard some of the pre-sale discussion, and thought, hmmm, that sounds like a risky purchase! But I didn't try to intervene - fat lip, no thank you sir.
Look out for a large-format book called Hoaxes & Scams by Carl Sifakis. He gives dozens of these cons. The trick of leaving a supposedly very valuable item as surety for a substantial cash loan takes many forms. One rather complex variation was the Rosary Game, supposedly a trick played on American Catholics in Europe.

There was also the dodgy-dealing where a cash-transaction was interrupted by a pretend-murder so that the "mark" was grateful to escape from the scene merely fleeced. This one features in the film The Grifters, which covers a lot of scams.

While some of the tricks in the Sifakis book contain chapter and verse on who pulled them off, others seem to be too elaborate to succeed. Almost any battle-plan seldom remains unmodified after the first encounter with the enemy!

These days, I think the Grifters have all migrated into cyberspace where from servers in Holland or Nigeria they want our bank details to pay us our lottery-winnings. I've had a few of them in the last month or so. But of course mine was a genuine win and the money should be here soon!

Police team-ups beat Nigeria's scammers

As part of BBC World Service's series on Intercontinental Cops, Jenny Chryss explores how investigators from London and Lagos have linked up to combat corruption and fraud in Nigeria.
Globally, Nigeria has become associated with what is known as "advance fee" or 419 fraud.

Virtually anyone with an email account will be familiar with this crime, which involves sending emails or faxes to potential victims around the world, sucking them into a highly attractive but utterly false financial deal.

Back in Nigeria, the rewards are potentially highly lucrative - but now, owing to a crackdown and much-improved co-operation between police forces globally, it has become more risky for the perpetrators.

"Historically we've always had a problem getting evidence from Nigeria, but that's changing," says Detective Sergeant Mark Radford, head of the Africa desk at New Scotland Yard.

"They're keen to co-operate and bring a lot of the criminals in Nigeria to justice."

Black money

At the holding cells in the centre of the country's commercial capital, Lagos, more than 50 suspects are waiting for court appearances on 419 charges. It is a busy place.

Recently Nigeria has, for the first time ever, begun a major crackdown on all sorts of economic crime - and it is needed.

Last year it was ranked the sixth most corrupt country in the world - and that was its best rating ever. :shock:

Now, though, internet service providers who allow online fraudsters to operate will face criminal charges, while decades in jail await the scammers themselves - with little chance of early parole.

Still, with rich pickings still to exploit, Nigeria's criminals will not give in easily.

As well as the most well-known scams, others are now coming into vogue. In one - the so-called "black money" scam - people are shown what appear to be bank notes which have been dyed.

The scammer appears to show how to remove the dye, and sells the "notes" for cash. In fact, the notes are worthless waste paper.

To give credence to their operations, the warehouses and hotels Nigerians use as meeting places are usually in European cities, with London being a favourite.

Olaolu Adegbite, head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission's Advance Fee Fraud section in Lagos, said one man from the US had ended up paying $2.1m after been conned in this way.

"The gentleman got convinced when he arrived in the UK and the men were well-dressed, some black, some white, and looked responsible," he said.

"He was convinced, he was carried away."

In this case the fraudster was eventually caught in Nigeria and sentenced to 342 years in jail. He must also repay the $2.1m in full.

State corruption

But there is a long way to go. Allegations of corruption go to the very highest level.

London detective Peter Clark has been trailing one Nigerian state governor, suspected of corruption in Nigeria and money-laundering in London, since January 2004.

Only when he began delving into what initially was a credit card fraud case that he realised how significant it might prove to be, when it became apparent that millions of pounds had been secretly moved from Nigeria into London banks.

For years, widespread corruption has been blamed for many of Nigeria's ills. Schools, hospitals and public services are falling far short of what could be expected of a country that is oil-rich and, in many areas, highly fertile.

And there now growing evidence that the people living in Nigeria's poor Central Plateau state are worse off even than they should be, because, it is alleged, the governor has siphoned off millions of pounds from the public purse.

Specifically, it is claimed he redirected at least £6m meant for environmental improvements into his own bank accounts.

"Every so often states make a bid to the federal government for extra works within their state - and what we've been able to find out is that as a result of cheques being issued for that work, the state governor basically steals that cheque," detective Clark said.

"We've identified that portions of that cheque have found their way into London bank accounts."

However, the governor of Central Plateau continues to rule because the assembly here has elected to keep him in office, where he has immunity from prosecution.

Although he declined to be interviewed by the BBC, the speaker of the assembly, Simon Lalong, told us the money allocated to the central plateau had been properly spent.

"We invited the EFCC to come and prove the allegations - because what we had at first was just paper telling us this is the bundle of allegations against his Excellency, including the jumping of bail," he said.

"They wrote and said this is the allegation, but we said, 'what are the facts?'"

In Nigeria it is being reported that 24 of the country's 36 state governors are now under investigation.

Allowing these men to go free is not an option for the EFCC chairman Nuhu Ribadu.

"If this country is going to change, if anything is going to work, we have to fight corruption, we have to establish rule of law and order," he says.

"We cannot do it alone, because we are fighting the power, the authority, those with the money, and we need those who are good, who understands the need of such things to stand by us."

Shoppers deceived in free-range egg scandal
By Valerie Elliott and Nicola Woolcock

CUSTOMERS across Britain have been sold millions of eggs passed off as free-range when they were produced in factory farms on the Continent, The Times has learnt.

A criminal inquiry is under way into how one firm alone might have been selling millions of eggs a year to High Street retailers who had no idea that they were part of a sophisticated scam.

Shoppers are believed to have been duped into paying double the price for free-range to avoid eggs from birds housed in battery cages. Many imported factory-farm eggs contain salmonella.

Police inquiries are centred on a business in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, where it is alleged that millions of cheap eggs were imported from France and Italy and repackaged and labelled as free-range. They were bought by wholesalers at free-range prices. The farm had its own free-range chickens and also imported genuine free-range eggs.

The egg industry fears that a prolonged investigation into the alleged fraud could blight the £220 million-a-year free-range market, which accounts for 35 per cent of the five billion eggs sold each year.

The business under investigation was selling around 360,000 eggs a week through Dean’s Food, the country’s biggest supplier. Dean’s supplies more than half the 1.75 billion free-range eggs sold in own-brand boxes to Tesco, Sainsbury’s Asda and Morrisons.

Retailers were last night urged to check immediately that none of their stock was being sold under the wrong label. The scale of the alleged fraud is unclear but the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) called in the British Egg Industry Council and leading supermarkets this week for a dressing-down.

Industry sources said that a whistleblower had tipped off Defra about alleged irregularities at the company. Imported eggs were allegedly stamped with bona-fide egg producer numbers.

John Widdowson, of the British Free Range Producers Association, said: “We are all absolutely outraged if this cheating has been going on and if proven we would support a high-profile prosecution.”

The British Retail Consortium said: “This practice is fraud, a deliberate attempt by rogue egg suppliers to mislead consumers and we fully support the immediate action that Defra has taken.”

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0, ... 29,00.html
All right, I'll start: eggs-traordinary!
My thoughts eggsactly!!!

A scam tried on me at an off liscence:
Miscreant buys gum with a £20 note, when you give him/her the change, they find enough change to pay for item in another pocket and ask for the note to be returned to them as they don't want a pocket full of change. They then proceed to swap money in a way that is meant to confuse you, and you end up returning their £20 while they have pocketed the other tenner. Can't remember the exact sequence, but it really was quite obvious. The guy attempting it seemed genuinely miffed as i slowly explained that he still had a tenner so I wouldn't be able to give him the twenty too!!!! This scam must work well as the guy turned up each Sept when you had a new batch of student employees to fool. Me serving him and making sure he knew I remembered him (staring into his beady eyes and smiling inanely did the trick) put a stop to his visits. :D
There's a fairly trashy 15-minute program on BBC3 at the moment called 'the real hustle', where they pull off various very audacious scams on unwitting members of the public (and then get their consent to show the footage for "educational purposes"). Can't remember any of the specifics but some of them were really amazing.
Here's a good one, from The Everything Tall Tales, Legends & Outrageous Lies Book by Nat Segaloff:

that one get's used in Neil Gaiman's American Gods, only using an 'antique fiddle' rather than a doggie...
TV dentist jailed for £450k fraud
By Lucy Thornton

A DENTIST who won £64,000 on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? was yesterday jailed for four years for a record NHS fraud.

David Heppleston claimed £450,000 over eight-and-a-half years for work on "ghost" patients and fictitious treatment on real clients.

He used the cash to prop up a bar business, pay debts and buy a bigger house, York crown court heard.

Judge Paul Hoffman said of his deception: "It was sophisticated. It was blatant. It was motivated by greed and nothing has been recovered."

Heppleston's wife had died leaving him to raise his son. The judge said he felt for his "wretched" situation but added professionals must be "scrupulously honest". Suspicions surfaced after Heppleston, 45, who ran a surgery in Scarborough, claimed to have fitted a huge number of crowns.

Heppleston, who collected his £64,000 cheque from ITV host Chris Tarrant in 2002, had earlier admitted 15 deception charges.

In early 2004, hundreds queued in Scarborough to register with a new NHS dentist with an estimated 17,000 people in the resort needing one.

When he shut his practice in June Heppleston had 5,000 patients, none of whom are thought to have a dentist.
The faked will that gave 'amoral' daughter £18m
Clare Dyer, legal editor
Friday February 16, 2007
The Guardian

Stephen Supple could be forgiven for expecting his father, Leonard, to have been a little more generous in his will - and for feeling a twinge of envy at his half-sister's inheritance. He had, after all, been left £100 a year, while Lynda Supple had done a little better, inheriting their father's £18m estate, including his 60-acre farm in Kent.
Mr Supple challenged the will, which was made a few months before his father died, in the high court. And his suspicions paid off yesterday when a judge ruled the will had been forged, clearing the way for a police investigation.

Yesterday, the deputy high court judge, Peter Leaver QC, declared the will invalid and ruled that Mr Supple had died intestate, meaning the estate will be divided equally between his two children.
Although the judge made no findings about who had forged the will, he branded Ms Supple a "cunning, amoral, selfish and vindictive woman", and ordered that a copy of his judgment be sent to the director of public prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald.

A short time after Mr Supple Sr died aged 77, a document surfaced which purported to be his last will and testament, the judge said. But he concluded that Leonard Supple's signatures were forgeries because they did not match earlier examples.

The judge had been told that Stephen Supple, a former amateur jockey and a qualified barrister, had a "perfectly normal relationship" with his father.

But he was told that Ms Supple had volatile dealings with her father, and was both "physically and verbally aggressive" towards him and his partner, Maria Nicholls, who died shortly after him.

Stephen Supple is the son of his father's first wife, Patricia, whom he divorced in 1955. Ms Supple was born after her father had a short affair with her mother, Margaret Milne. She lived with her mother until she was 10, when she moved to her father's farm.

The judge said the evidence he heard revealed Leonard Supple had been a domineering man who demanded "absolute obedience" from those around him. One witness said he was a tyrant who flew into a rage if he did not get what he wanted.

The judge also noted that the siblings' behaviour towards each other was "a cause of difficult family relationships". He added: "Lynda was totally dominated by Leonard and had no option but to obey his every wish and will. Such blind obedience led her into improper conduct sometimes."

But he said that it became apparent during the hearing that she was also capable of looking after herself both physically and mentally. "Her apparent puzzled demeanour could not mask her substantial natural cunning. In the event, I find her evidence to be unbelievable and untrue in respect of many important matters."

He said Ms Supple had forged Maria's signature to collect her pension after she went into hospital to have a leg amputated. "In modern parlance, this was a dysfunctional family."

On the day of her father's death, Ms Supple signed a cheque in his name after he had a heart attack, failed to phone her half-brother or aunt, and pretended to a family friend that nothing had happened. "She is a cunning, amoral, selfish and vindictive woman whose thoughts were only for herself and who had no interest in the feelings of others," said the judge.

He also criticised the evidence of Robert Pendeno - a man unknown to the father, his family or friends - who was named as executor of the forged will with Ms Supple.

Ms Supple, who was in court, made no comment. Speaking after yesterday's judgment, Stephen Supple, 58, called for a review of the law on probate to shore up public confidence in the procedures for dealing with wills. "I intend to make representations to the appropriate law people, the Law Commission, parliament, to look into reviewing the law of wills and probate, because a case like this undermines the public confidence in the probate procedures," he said.

"It also demonstrates how easy the law is at the moment to perpetrate a fraud like this, and if I hadn't been so persistent, and had the help of family and friends, this would have gone through.

"I've known from day one that there was something going on, the way things have been spoken about, and when I eventually got hold of the document, I had absolutely no doubt whatsoever that it was a forgery."

His counsel, Thomas Dumont, asked the judge for the costs of the case to be taken from Ms Supple's inheritance. A decision is to be made at a later date.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story ... 25,00.html

I've previously ascertained that there wasn't a general thread devoted to this topic, so here goes...

English Fraudster Gets 20 Years For US Church Scam

English fraudster gets 20 years for US church scam

Mark Oliver

Saturday July 14, 2007

Guardian Unlimited

British con artist Howard Welsh toured US cities like a modern-day snake oil salesman, targeting Christians with bogus investment plans and scamming his way to some £16m.

But his face ended up on the FBI's Most Wanted website and despite crisscrossing continents while on the run, he was today starting a 20-year stretch in a US jail.

Most of the 900-odd victims of Liverpool-born Welsh, 63, had one thing in common: they fell victim to his callous manipulation of their religious faith.

Welsh and his American girlfriend, Lee Hope Thrasher, 53, were based in the resort city of Virginia Beach, in the east coast state of Virginia, but from 1999 took the con on the road, targeting church networks.

They hosted euphoric, deeply religious three-day seminars in hotels while selling "divinely inspired" investments that promised huge returns while helping poor and disabled children abroad. "Do you have enough faith to see this through for a year?" one of Welsh's fliers asked.

Welsh, who styled himself as an "international businessman" and who had earlier tried less successfully to sell a "magical elixir", took inspiration from the infamous 1920s Chicago conman, Charles Ponzi.

Ponzi's signature scam was devastatingly simple. You attract a few investors and then quickly pay out high returns. This creates a buzz, and attracts more investors. Then you disappear.

Welsh and Thrasher - who was today jailed for 15-years alongside him at the district court in Norfolk, Virginia - disappeared from the Virginia area in the summer of 2002. A year later, prosecutors brought the first charges against them.

At some stage, the pair left the US, having wired millions of dollars to 13 destinations, mainly foreign banks in places including Lebanon, Switzerland, Nigeria, China and France. Investigators believe they spent time in Latin America and Africa, as well as Belgium and other continental European countries.

However, the end of the FBI hunt was not quite the stuff of Hollywood thrillers. Welsh and Thrasher were arrested by the Metropolitan police in November 2004 at a train station in the Shropshire market town of Whitchurch, near his elderly mother Doris's retirement home.

The pair appeared to have hidden or lost the money. US investigators have only recovered around £1.25m. Both were ordered today to pay $33, 543,153 (£16,486,990) in restitution.

It emerged this week that Welsh had told lawyers that he gave $31m to a Nigerian man called Femi Coker, who had claimed to work for the Nigerian Central Bank. Welsh said he met the Nigerian in Accra, Ghana, and that the money is still in a government warehouse and he will be able to get it back if he pays a "release tax", the Virginia Pilot newspaper reported.

Investigators soon established nobody of that name worked at the Nigerian Central Bank. The name Femi Coker features in a number of websites warning about Nigerian advance fee cons, the so-called 419 scams. Letters written by a Mr Coker variously describe him as a "director of the ministry of agriculture" or an official at a Nigerian oil firm.

If Welsh did have the tables turned on him by another con artist his many victims might be forgiven for enjoying the irony.

Less than 5% of investors to Welsh's scams - some of whom were Britons - saw returns and a number were left in financial ruins. One elderly woman from Illinois, who has since died, lost around £4m, thinking she was investing in a new bank called Zialogic, which in reality was no more than a UK post office box.

"This was a massive fraud, stunning in both its length and breadth," said US attorney Chuck Rosenburg. "We are very pleased with their convictions."

After their arrest, the pair spent almost two years in UK prisons while fighting extradition but were finally sent to the US in July last year. The same month, in their first court appearance in the US, they insisted they were innocent and wanted to "get the truth out".

But three months into the trial they changed their pleas. Welsh admitted four counts, including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Thrasher pleaded guilty to three similar counts.

Before they changed their pleas, Paul Chandler, a Met officer, told the trial that the couple had rented a flat in Birmingham, for which Welsh had signed the lease with the name "Holmes Golden". There was evidence of other false identities at the flat, including a "James Bond".

The US Internal Revenue Service told the trial that Welsh had been looking at exploring "something with diamonds" in Ghana.

Thrasher, who previously worked as a victim-witness coordinator, met Welsh in 1997 and her father Harold told the Virginia Pilot that she was under the Briton's control and the family had failed to convince her it was all a scam. But perhaps the best illustration of Welsh's dangerous talent as a conman is the length of time that some of the victims retained faith in him. One investor of £60,000, Greg del Ferro, told the local newspaper, even as the trial was underway last July, that he still did not believe it was a con.

"It was about helping other people. That's what Lee Hope and Howard were stressing. By all means they made mistakes, but they are not the types to deceive or take advantage," he said. Mr Del Ferro wondered whether the pair may have had problems after inviting the "wrong people" to invest.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

Ocean's 11 conman and a royal heist
David Brown

It was one of the most audacious jewel thefts in history. In the middle of a crowded room, the famed Star of the Empress Sisi was stolen from its high-security case and replaced with a replica.

Nine years after the heist, a criminal mastermind has finally revealed how he stole the Austrian royal heirloom while travelling the world carrying out frauds and thefts on the orders of a mysterious British crime boss.

Details of Gerald Blanchard’s years as head of the most sophisticated crime gang in Canadian history has led to prosecutors comparing his activities to the Hollywood movie Ocean’s 11.

The 35-year-old computer expert has already admitted responsibility for stealing the famed Koechert Diamond Pearl, or Star of Empress Sisi, from the Castle Schonbrunn in Vienna, Austria.The jewel-encrusted brooch had been placed on public display in an alarmed case in 1998 to mark the centennial anniversary of the assassination of Elisabeth of Austria.

Posing as a tourist and accompanied by his wife and father-in-law, Blanchard disabled the case’s alarm and replaced the jewel with a replica bought at the castle’s souvenir shop. The swap was not discovered for more than a month and the loss of a priceless part of Austria’s history remained unsolved until Blanchard led police to its hiding place in his grandmother’s basement earlier this year.

Sheila Leinburd, a Crown attorney, told a Canadian court: “Cunning, clever, conniving and creative — add some foreign intrigue and this is the stuff movies are made of.”

Blanchard has admitted 16 charges of theft and fraud after police built up a picture of his activities during a massive investigation involving thousands of intercepted telephone calls and hundreds of hours of video which he had taken during his international travels.

Scotland Yard has now been asked to help trace the London-based criminal known as “The Boss” who co-ordinated many of the scams. Blanchard has told detectives that the man was raising money to fund Kurdish terrorists in northern Iraq.

Blanchard was a master of disguise and used at least eight aliases to travel the world with the help of forged identification documents and by changing his appearance with make-up, spectacles, beards or moustaches and dyed hair. He used his forgery skills to create fake VIP passes and media identification to interview celebrities and attend major sporting events. One week he would interview the singer Christina Aguilera, the next he was in the pits at the Monaco Grand Prix. 8)

His jet-set lifestyle was funded by sophisticated thefts and frauds through what the Canadian authorities have named the “Gerald Blanchard Criminal Organisation”. With his leadership the gang was estimated to make millions of pounds a year. In one scam they targeted newly-built banking centres which contained cash machines from several banks. Using pinhole cameras and listening devices he monitored the construction work before emptying the cash machines of up to C$500,000 (£250,000) the night before their grand openings. :shock: Blanchard was also involved in a massive fraud using details of stolen credit cards to target the accounts of British bank customers in operations across Europe and Africa.

He was finally caught following an operation in November last year when “The Boss” ordered him to fly to Egypt. He was provided with the details of credit cards and PINs of tens of thousands of British bank accounts to create fake credit cards. Gang members wore burkhas while using the cards at cash machines in Cairo, withdrawing up to £500 from each account. When one of the gang disappeared with £25,000, Blanchard was held hostage in London until he could persuade the runaway to return.

Ms Leinburd told The Times: “He is a very charismatic guy and his gang would operate like the guys in Ocean’s 11. But at the same time he knew he was funding terrorism. We have intercepted telephone conversations with The Boss. I don’t think he had any political or religious reasons to support terrorism but saw it as a way to get the information for his operations.”

Blanchard was sentenced to eight years in jail this month but will be eligible for parole in two years. As part of his plea bargaining, he agreed to sell a number of luxury apartments he owns in Vancouver to repay the banks. He has given the banks details of his operations and is in negotiations to work with them on his release from jail.

Associate Chief Justice Jeffrey Oliphant told him: “I think you have a great future if you wish to pursue an honest style of life — although I’m not prepared to sign a reference.” :D

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/w ... 943269.ece
Here in Dubai, the ''black dollar'' scam, or a variant is regularly reported in the paper. Last year someone was conned into buying a lamp, which when rubbed....you guessed it, a djinn appeared. currently on remand, we have a Yemeni trader who offered for sale, IN THE NEWSPAPER! a ''magical'' piece of onyx, which would protect the owner from bullets. The asking price was in excess of $1 million. The prosecuter has demanded a demonstration of its powers, we await the outcome with bated breath