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Con Artists Revealed as the Criminals They Are


Scammers and Cons

Telemarketing sales presentations are actually carefully scripted pitches designed to trap the unwary, to close a sale by whatever means necessary.

A swindler's driving force is greed and they have a talent for sniffing out the same vice in others who, in their desire to get rich quick, are all too eager to put their trust and their money in the hands of unscrupulous schemers. They justify their actions by assuming that victims deserve their fate.

Bunco artists, grifters and cons all have charisma which sometimes masks the fact that they are malignant narcissistics who like to feed on the insecurities and stupidities of the naive and weak. They know that people who are down on their luck are easier to manipulate, and they have no feelings of guilt or remorse as they use all manner of trickery and deceit. They will strip victims not only of their hard earned money, but also of their dignity.

Telemarketers get paid by generous commissions, living by the proposition that whatever brings profit is permissible. An experienced salesperson can make $50,000 to $90,000 a year, and an aggressive telemarketer can make over $450,000 in a single year. Yet often when these con artists are brought to justice, it is impossible to recover anything to compensate their victims because most of their money has gone to purchase recreational drugs or to support an extravagant lifestyle.

Scam operators love to flaunt the spoils of their massive multi-million dollar deceptions. After spending as much as physically possible on luxury toys such as Ferraris and Jaguar sports cars, fully equipped mansions and casino junkets, they generally try to hide the excess in offshore accounts.

The white collar criminal is no more deterred by stringent securities laws than the hardened felon is by lengthy prison sentences. In fact, many telemarketers have an extensive criminal history, including convictions for assault and narcotics offenses. These thugs, who contribute nothing to our society, choose to satisfy their greed by bilking others instead of doing an honest day's work.

A Major Industry

At one point, it was estimated that over 10,000 people in the Southern Nevada area were involved in telemarketing scams. Despite Nevada's identity as a center of fraudulent telemarketing activity, the reality is that telemarketers have migrated from state to state and have entrenched themselves in various states as well as Canada ( particularly Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver ) and abroad.

The scope of the telemarketing problem is revealed by the telephone bills of raided operations which total thousands of dollars per month with calls going to every nook and cranny in the country. Each of these calls represents a potential or actual victim.

Masters of Manipulation

Con artists are experts at manipulating certain human traits such as goodness, gullibility, greed or fear which will influence people to voluntarily part with their money. Because a scam requires the voluntary participation of the victim, you are in a position to defeat the fraud by just saying "no" to the con artist. The challenge is to educate you so that you can recognize that a swindle is taking place.

Conmen have stated that to succeed they need a victim who displays greed, gullibility and the ability to be controlled. A less cynical person might consider these traits to apply to a desire to succeed, trust and a respect for authority.

Evidence from fraud investigations shows that telemarketing schemes use a wide variety of influence techniques, ranging from friendly conversation to outright demands or even threats, to persuade victims to part with their money. Many calls include the following elements intended to mislead victims and secure their compliance.

Excitement

Schemes often begin with statements to excite the victim, interfering with your ability to think clearly and calmly.

"Thelma, I can't tell you what you're getting, but I sure hope you live long enough to enjoy it all."

"If you recall, you were involved in a promotional campaign and you were promised you'd receive some very large corporate award, do you remember that? . . . Great! Then you'd better sit down for this."

"They told you the man in charge of the place would be calling you. Well, that's me! Take a deep breath now and try not to be nervous."

Claims of Authority

The lack of face-to-face contact allows offenders to impersonate government and corporate officials to increase credibility, and in some cases, to coerce reluctant victims. The anonymity of the telephone permits younger telemarketers to impersonate persons middle age authority figures with distinguished names in order to gain credibility with their older victims.

Older citizens grew up with respect for leaders and respect for authority. Many view some of these phone calls as coming from an authority figure, someone who appears to have more information than they do about something.

They can all identify themselves as the "general manager" or "president" of the company, thus lending further credence to their claims that "Yes, this time your ship has finally come in!"

"I make them understand the importance of my position, being the promotional director. And right off the bat they're excited because when it's the owner, they think of you as the higher authority."

Impersonating government officials can also serve as the basis for subtle or even brazen coercion. Offenders posing as tax or customs officials, for example, sometimes "remind" the victims that they are under legal obligation to pay taxes on the funds the offenders falsely state will be paid to the victims.

Pretense of Friendship

A favorite tactic of telemarketing con artists is to develop a false bond of friendship with senior citizens who are eager to have someone to talk to on the phone, even a complete stranger. Cons are clever actors who, assuming the role of a helpful person , will look for weaknesses while asking friendly, personal questions.

Victims have described calls in which offenders ingratiated themselves as quickly as possible by convincing them that the offender was sincerely interested in them on a personal level. The fraudster will call you by your first name and ask you a lot of personal or lifestyle questions (like How often do your grown children visit you?) as they build both rapport and a personal file on you.

Criminals love finding out that you're isolated, lonely and willing to talk. Once they know that, they'll try to convince you that they are your friend – after all, we don't normally suspect our friends of being crooks.

"I never try to sell anything on the first call, I just make a new friend. By the third call, they think they've known me for years."

One woman told authorities that she did not agree to send money to one telemarketer until he had spoken with her eight or nine times. Another spoke of a telemarketer who pretended to share personal details with her about his own wife and children. Other victims have been sent modest gifts, such as flowers, by cons seeking to ingratiate themselves with people and gain their trust.

Manners

Some swindlers combine professional-sounding sales pitches with extremely polite manners, knowing that many older people are likely to equate good manners with personal integrity. Just remember that the sound of a voice, particularly on the phone, has no bearing on the soundness of an investment opportunity.

Fear

Con artists know that many people worry they will either outlive their savings or see all of their financial resources vanish overnight as the result of a catastrophic event, such as a costly hospitalization. As a result, it is common for swindlers and abusive salespeople to pitch the schemes as a way to help build up your life savings to the point where such fears are no longer necessary.

Urgency

Offenders routinely include an element of urgency in their pitches, stressing that the prize, investment, or other item being offered will not be available unless you send the required funds quickly. This puts pressure on you to react before thinking the proposal over. A key to successful telemarketing fraud is convincing you to pay quickly, so they receive the funds before you can have second thoughts or seek advice.

"You have to send that money today or I'm afraid we'll have to give the car to the second place winner."

To get the money before victims can reconsider, offenders often use telephones to process credit-card or debit transactions and for follow-up calls when victims do not pay promptly. The practice of sending a courier to your home immediately after a solicitation call is another tactic that deprives you of an opportunity to reflect on the scam offer. It is also coercive, since many victims are intimidated when a person appears at their door demanding money.

Anonymity

Offenders often use false names, and victims can only identify them by voice, if at all, creating a serious obstacle for investigators and prosecutions.They usually have payments sent to commercially-rented "drop boxes" which can make tracing funds difficult. They will try to avoid witnesses to the fraud by contacting the victim when they are alone.

They may even promise you an all-expense-paid trip to their company's "corporate headquarters" when, in fact, the headquarters is an upstairs office in a strip mall and the company's "Suite 2400" mailing address is a box at a commercial mail-receiving agency in a different strip mall.

Oral Misrepresentations

Particular schemes vary, but all fraudulent telemarketers promise you a "deal" they can't possibly deliver. Unfortunately, you won't know it until your money's gone.

For an in-depth look at the psychological factors involved in persuasion see http://changingminds.org  by David Straker, Business Consultant and Author in the U.K.

Affordable Offers

Unlike the fraudulent telemarketers who try to persuade people to spend thousands of dollars on an investment scheme, fraudulent travel telemarketers usually pitch club membership or vacation offers in a lower price range. The offers sound reasonable and are designed to appeal to anyone who is looking for a getaway.

Contradictory Follow-up Material

Some companies may agree to send you written confirmation of your deal. However, it usually bears little resemblance to the offer you accepted over the phone. The written materials often disclose additional terms, conditions, and costs.

Players in the Game

A "qualifier", also known as a "dialer", identifies victims on the lead lists who have either lost substantial amounts of money or have the potential to, by making exploratory "no selling" calls. A "fronter" makes the initial sale but then passes the lead on to a reloader for future repeat sales. A "closer" is a high-pressure salesman who completes the sales. A "no saler" is someone who solicits people who have said "no" to a prior solicitor. A "takeover" man will step in if a sales attempt bogs down and needs new enthusiasm and a different line to convince you.

How Low Can You Get?

One con convinced an elderly Seattle woman that he could recover $84,000 which she lost in the past to telemarketers if she gave him $28,251 as a fee. He flew to Seattle, rented a Jaguar, and visited the lady at her home. He told her that if he did not recover the money, the money she paid him would be fully refunded to her.

The lady explained to him that she needed help in recovering her money so she could make a down payment on a home for her daughter and her son-in-law who was wheelchair-bound and blind as a result of exposure to Agent Orange.

When a nurse brought the lady's' son-in-law into the room, this kindly man advised her that his own father had been ill and confined to a motorized wheelchair but was recovering and would no longer need the wheelchair. He said he would be happy to send the wheelchair to her, for her son-in-law.

After getting the $28,251 from the lady, he rented a three bedroom suite at the Four Seasons Hotel, purchased clothes and accessories, and traveled to various nightclubs in a limousine with two female hotel employees. He returned to Las Vegas the next day, flying first class, never intending to see or talk to the lady or her disabled son-in-law again.

No Victim Too Weak or Vulnerable

Leaving his job providing brokerage services to a number of elderly investors, a representative of First Investors Corp in Seattle, moved to Massachusetts and opened a business called the Crownshield Company, listing the address of a baseball diamond on the business certificate.

He then began soliciting several of his former clients and told them he had a new "investment opportunity" which he was offering to a select number of his former clients.

Telling them that the funds would be invested in a real estate opportunity involving the purchase of a Housing and Urban Development housing project, he took $50,000 from a 74 year-old widow suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, and an additional $22,000 from her son. He then informed them that the investment had "failed." Both investors lost all of their money.

The funds were not however used for a real estate investment, but instead were spent for his own personal purposes. Indeed, after scooping the money from the widow, he and his girlfriend flew to Las Vegas where he purchased nearly $13,000 in chips at Bally's Casino with it.

He also took $36,000 from an 85 year-old man suffering from Parkinson's Disease. He promised the man a better rate of return than he was then receiving, claiming that he had an investment opportunity in antiques. The 85 year-old man signed a blank piece of paper given to him which was then filled out afterwards with instructions to liquidate the man's investment account.

That account was emptied and the funds were deposited into an account in the name of the Crownshield Company. These funds were not invested as he had promised, but instead were used to pay for rent, airline tickets, or for cash.

Fortunately he was at least arrested and if convicted faces up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 on each of the interstate transportation of property obtained by fraud counts, and five years' imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 on the mail fraud and wire fraud counts.

The Wolf That Ate Grandma

A 28-year-old man bilked his grandmother out of $131,000 and frittered the money away while the elderly woman was forced into bankruptcy, evicted from her apartment and forced to return to work at the age of 70.

She used up her life savings and took cash advances on her credit cards to give him more than $131,000. He stated that he didn't look at this as stealing, but admitted that at times he was "deceitful and untruthful," saying the cash was for fines, bank fees, child-support payments, electricity bills and rent.

At one point he said he needed cash to pay his attorney because his mother was being sued, then asked a friend to pose as the attorney. He told police that he lied to his grandmother because he thought she would not give him the money otherwise.

But aside from rent payments and a 1985 Porsche he bought for $4,500, he couldn't recall how he spent the loans. He says he stopped asking for money because his grandmother "didn't have any more." She eventually reported him to police after numerous loans went unpaid.

All in the Family

A former stockbroker defrauded an elderly uncle, with whom he lived, of over $88,000, by impersonating the man, contacting financial institutions at which his uncle had accounts, arranging for withdrawals from these accounts, and having the withdrawal checks mailed to the uncle's residence.

He then intercepted the mail, forged the uncle's endorsement on the checks and used the checks for his own purposes. When charged, he also pled guilty to using the social security number of his deceased father in order to obtain four credit cards, as well as to open an account at a credit union. The losses on these credit cards, and to the credit union, exceeded $43,000.

He had, in the past, pled guilty to 13 counts of mail and bank fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud eight investors out of more than $3 million.

The Prison Food Diet

One con man ran a diet-product business designed solely to land his victims in small-claims court. Using a number of different companies, he made a career of tricking people into signing contracts they could not fulfill and then suing them.

He worked the diet scam by advertising for diet counselors at $1,400 per month. But after signing contracts, victims learned they had obligated themselves to purchase large amounts of products they were to sell on commission only.

When people returned the product he would sue them for breach of contract. If they counter-sued he would then sue for defamation of character. He sued over 300 people during a two year period. After seeing him ordered to serve consecutive 0-to-5-year prison terms the prosecutor characterized him as "one of the most sinister people I've ever run into."

I'm The Victim Here

A U.S. Bankruptcy Judge sanctioned a foreclosure scam artist, $85,000 for filing a sham bankruptcy petition. The Office of the United States Trustee alerted the court to allegations that agents of his had been obtaining title to distressed properties by promising owners he would prevent foreclosure and renegotiate their loans, while allowing them to remain as renters for less than their monthly house payments.

However, instead of negotiating with lenders, he ran the properties through dozens of bankruptcies to delay foreclosure while collecting rents from the property owners. According to the LA Times, he is connected to more than thirty bankruptcies, nationwide, filed for that purpose.

Usually noted for his tearful outbursts at court proceedings and extravagant claims about his own good intentions, this time he remained composed, insisting that he was the victim of a government conspiracy and has made no money from his benevolent activities.


One viewer notes that Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud scammers display a self-righteous, holier-than-thou belief that what they do, regardless of it's illegality, absolves them of guilt because they have a vendetta against white people for past injustices.

The one thing a con man relies on is a person's greed, but just because they can con someone based on greed doesn't mean they aren't still crooks who are simply tapping into people's natural tendency to want more, albeit the easy way, instead of having to work for it.

Since they're poor and haven't much of an outlook they seem to feel justified to steal or do any wrong to get them ahead. It's survival for some, but in fact, it is they who are greedy and simply want to outsmart rich white men using the victim's greed as justification.


The Worst Con-Men are Psychopaths

In popular usage, almost any crazy killer is a "psychopath." But in psychiatry, it's a very specific mental condition that rarely involves killing, or even psychosis.

"Psychopaths are not disoriented or out of touch with reality, nor do they experience the delusions, hallucinations, or intense subjective distress that characterize most other mental disorders," writes Dr. Robert Hare, in Without Conscience, the seminal book on the condition.

"Unlike psychotic individuals, psychopaths are rational and aware of what they are doing and why. Their behavior is the result of choice, freely exercised."

Because psychopaths are guided by such a different thought process than non-psychopathic humans, we tend to find their behavior inexplicable. But they're actually much easier to predict than the rest of us once you understand them. Psychopaths follow much stricter behavior patterns than the rest of us because they are unfettered by conscience, living solely for their own aggrandizement.

None of his victims means anything to the psychopath. He recognizes other people only as means to obtain what he desires. Not only does he feel no guilt for destroying their lives, he doesn't grasp what they feel. The truly hardcore psychopath doesn't quite comprehend emotions like love or hate or fear, because he has never experienced them directly.


Jury finds 3 men not guilty in scheme to scam computer business

By ROB JOHNSON - Staff Writer -Tennessean.com

05/15/04 - The Utah defendants called themselves investors, consultants, businessmen.

But they were also friends with Conan Cook, an admitted Salt Lake City con man adept at dreaming up grandiose investment deals that were really designed to feed his expensive appetites for Trans Ams, prescription painkillers and gambling junkets to Las Vegas.

One of his last scams stretched all the way from Utah to Nashville, where a young computer broker bit on a tempting business offer more than two years ago.

What followed were two years of civil litigation and an FBI criminal investigation. It culminated with a federal jury trial that saw three men exonerated yesterday of conspiracy, fraud and money-laundering charges.

It began in February 2002 when Cook contacted a Nashville businessman with an incredibly tempting offer on 500 desktop computers. All businessman Robert Echols Jr. —the son of the chief U.S. district judge in Nashville —had to do was to wire $262,000 to an escrow account and wait over the weekend for the machines to arrive on the loading dock of his Nashville firm, Essex Technologies.

Cook said the opportunity was valid for only a day, and Echols accepted the terms.

The computers never existed, except on Cook's bogus product list.

Echols contacted Cook a few days later to ask where the hardware was. By then, the money had evaporated.

What started immediately afterward as a civil lawsuit quickly morphed into an FBI investigation that brought four men to Nashville for prosecution.

But on these charges, only one of them is going to prison.

Cook, 28, has already pleaded guilty to the fraud and is awaiting sentencing later this month. In a bid for leniency, he agreed to testify against his three co-defendants. Cook, the government's star witness during a two-week trial before Senior U.S. District Court Judge John Nixon, admitted that he repeatedly conned his victims and had lied to a federal grand jury.

The remaining defendants, Steve Wallace, M. Ebeling and S. Davis, contend that they were duped by a clever con man, and had, in effect, become another set of his victims.

The government charged, though, that they were part of a conspiracy to defraud Essex Technologies by a scheme designed to look like a failed business deal.

If it blew up in his face, Cook said, he theorized that the Utah businesses involved, including his own asset-free corporation, could just claim bankruptcy and walk away.

Ebeling, who held himself out as a retired attorney, was the business consultant who allowed his escrow account to be used as the destination for the Essex wire transfer, the government charged. Ebeling also set up Cook's corporation.

What came into play next were a set of promissory notes and checks that Cook had generated.

That paperwork eventually enabled Davis, then Wallace, to access the money that arrived from Tennessee.

So Wallace ended up with a check that took a lot of work to cash.

He testified he could only cash it piecemeal and that he spent a long day driving down Utah's Wasatch Valley, stopping at a branch bank, cashing whatever amount the bank was able to provide, taking the balance in the form of a cashier's check, then driving to the next branch to cash it down some more.

It took him 18 such stops, and by the end of the day, he had handed over to Cook most of the money.

Cook said he took the cash —and his girlfriend —to Vegas.

Wallace's explanation: Cook owed him thousands in long-overdue investment returns. The check represented his first taste of those returns. But he was willing to hand the money over to Cook for another of his purported computer deals that promised an even bigger return.

The government's explanation: Wallace was helping to launder the money. Davis and Ebeling had provided crucial support to Cook to create a bogus computer deal.

Davis and Ebeling said they had nothing to do with Cook's illegal schemes.

In the end, despite the shadowy promissory notes, the red-flag business practices and the too-good-to-be-true computer prices, the jury determined, after two days of deliberation, that the government had not proved its case.

Defense attorneys David Cooper, Paul Bruno and David Komisar celebrated with their ecstatic clients, who rushed with their families out of the courtroom, hoping to catch the day's last flight out for Utah.

After two days of deliberation, a grim-faced jury returned yesterday afternoon. And at least one juror was openly sobbing.


Serial Conman Finally Meets a Judge Who Can't be Duped

09/06 - CALGARY, Alberta  - A con artist who has been preying on vulnerable citizens for more than a quarter-century has been sent to jail for eight years.

Provincial court Judge Anne Brown on Thursday handed down the sentence to Bryan Andrew Casavant for his latest spree of stealing from and defrauding such people as terminally ill cancer patients, people with Crohn's disease and seniors on fixed incomes .

Brown said the dollar total he scammed from his latest 16 victims was not enormous $20,693 but that the harm to the victims was devastating.

"Mr. Casavant has 125 convictions over 26 years for directly related offences theft, fraud and possession of stolen property," said Brown.

"The provisions of criminal law mean nothing to him. He's absolutely incorrigible."

Casavant pleaded guilty in April to 14 counts of fraud and two counts of theft from victims in Calgary, Edmonton, Wetaskiwin, Alta., and Kelowna, B.C. He is already serving sentences for other convictions, in December and February and faces other charges in Victoria.

He apologized to the judge before sentencing, reminding her he had co-operated with police after he was arrested, and asked her to impose a sentence of two years less a day.

He also told the judge how much his wife and nine-year-old daughter meant to him and that he had committed his crimes in part to buy a hearing aid for his daughter.

But the judge saw it only as another attempt at conning the court.

"Clearly, this sentence will send a very strong message that this kind of fraudulent activity on these types of victims won't be tolerated," said Crown prosecutor Robert Bassett.

Defence lawyer Mitch Stephensen, who had argued for two to three years for his client, said outside court he did not know if his client has any plans for an appeal.

The most disturbing of the latest scams, court previously heard, involved defrauding $900 from a Calgary woman who was terminally ill with cancer.

Casavant approached the woman, indicating he was also terminally ill and that he and his partner wanted to buy a machine that might help rid them of their disease. Once he had her trust, he tricked the woman out of money by using a bank machine ruse.

Calgary Herald


Too Smart by Half- African Scientist charged with fraud - article


 

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