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Gold Bricking, Grifting, Hustling, Cons, Conmen and Frauds
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rynner
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PostPosted: 16-02-2007 12:39    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
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/0,,2014425,00.html
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WhistlingJackOffline
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PostPosted: 14-07-2007 14:25    Post subject: Conmen Reply with quote

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

Quote:
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


Scradje
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rynner
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PostPosted: 27-11-2007 08:05    Post subject: Reply with quote

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. Cool

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. Shocked 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.” Very Happy

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article2943269.ece
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tonyblair11
PostPosted: 10-02-2008 08:04    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think this is our con man thread.


http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=23332&start=0&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=gold+bricking



Edit: URL edited for size. P_M
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rynner
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PostPosted: 10-02-2008 09:14    Post subject: Reply with quote

tonyblair11 wrote:
I think this is our con man thread.


http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=23332&start=0&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=gold+bricking



Edit: URL edited for size. P_M

I'm baffled as to why a Mod would bother resizing the URL instead of simply moving the opening post to the existing thread! Question
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PostPosted: 10-02-2008 17:58    Post subject: Reply with quote

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
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rynner
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PostPosted: 13-02-2008 08:29    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thinking about holidays...? Beware!

The 13 best travel scams
From Floridian fraudsters to fake Peruvian police, these are the scoundrels out to scam you
Brian Schofield

THE PHONEY FREE TRIP TO FLORIDA

The phone rings and an electronic voice tells you to hit the number 9 to claim your prize, a holiday to the Sunshine State – at which point a salesperson comes on the line and explains that you have, in fact, won only most of a holiday. To seal the deal, you are typically told, it will cost between £500 and £700 for a supposed £2,000 luxury trip, usually to Orlando and the Bahamas.

You’re then asked for your credit-card details, “strictly for verification”, but the full fee is promptly removed from your card without your consent. If you try to get the money back, the delays begin, with calls going unanswered, packages not arriving, and staff often verbally abusing customers. And your credit-card company doesn’t have to refund you – because you read out those numbers.

The Sunday Times knows of dozens of victims of this scam, and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has been trying to shut down the perpetrators for years – but they’re still at work.

Steering clear: if you’re told you’ve won a competition you never entered, it’s a scam. If you’ve been caught by the Florida fraudsters, go to www.800helpfla.com.

THE CARD MILL

“Become a travel agent! Save 50%-75% on flights and hotels using special travel-agent-only rates. Getting a travel-agent card takes only 15 minutes!”

This internet scam, known as “card milling”, is on the increase. Greedy travellers are told that by spending up to £260 on a travel-agent ID card, they will become eligible for industry-insider rates, meaning huge discounts on flights, hotels and, most commonly, cruises.

You cough up the credit-card details, your ID card arrives – and the first time you slap it down on a reception desk, you’re laughed out of the lobby.

The problem is becoming so widespread that Royal Caribbean Cruises has just announced a crackdown on card-mill chumps – if you flash one of these cards, not only will you not get a discount, you won’t be allowed to book at full rate.

Steering clear: if you really want a career as a travel agent, there’s a jobs page at www.abta.com.

THE FLY-BY-NIGHT

Comfortably the most costly scam in the UK is the oldest one in the book – companies taking travellers’ cash, then shutting down their businesses without delivering what they promised.

Many closures are just business failures – about 25 legitimate travel firms a year go belly up, leaving, on average, 20,000 Britons with trashed holiday plans – but many are dodgy deals. In 2006, an Oxfordshire company called MAS Travel collected more than £1m of British travellers’ cash for heavily discounted flights. But the firm never purchased the tickets from the airlines, and hastily shut up shop – some travellers found out they’d been scammed only at the check-in desk.

Steering clear: ideally, you should purchase holidays only from Atol-bonded operators, whose collapse wouldn’t cost you a penny. But in these independent-minded times, when more of us put together our own holidays, the safety net is to check that your travel insurance covers airline and operator closure – many policies do.

THE HOLLOW INSURANCE

This scam has, with luck, only one year left to run – but, as a 2007 House of Commons report suggested, because it affects 10m UK travellers a year, it’s still a worry. Basically, most travel agents are on commission to sell you insurance alongside your holiday, and for far too many of them, mis-selling is too hard to resist.

A Consumer Association survey in 2006 reported that 81% of customers didn’t have their coverage properly explained to them by their travel agent, 55% weren’t told about their excess payment and 65% weren’t asked about any existing medical complaints that might have left them uncovered.

According to another 2007 survey, by Sainsbury’s Bank, 7% of customers were told a big fat lie by their travel agent – that they had to buy the insurance to get the holiday. The government is so concerned that, from January 2009, travel agents will be regulated by the Financial Services Authority.

Steering clear: make it your responsibility – because, legally, the obligation lies with you – to ensure that the agent knows about any medical conditions and precisely what your trip will entail. And remember that it is your right to shop around.

AWAY

THE FAKE RECEPTIONIST

If you’re a scam artist, the modern-day jackpot is spending some time alone with a traveller’s credit-card details before they realise anything is up. Common, and almost unstoppable, tricks include capturing all the details when you hand the card over for a meal or some petrol – but one ingenious new tactic, first reported in Shanghai, has been to call hotel rooms late at night, pretending to be from reception.

“We’re trying to process your bill, sir, but the card details seem to be wrong. Could you just bring the card down to the desk?” “But it’s two in the morning!” “Okay, just read the numbers out down the phone...”

Steering clear: take great care who gets your numbers and handles your card out of your sight. Realistically, your best defence is last-ditch – checking your credit-card statement carefully after every foreign trip. You should be refunded any money that has been taken illegally.

THE SECRET CONVERSION

There’s a more minor, but also more irritating, way you can be diddled when you hand over your card overseas. Whenever you pay by card, you should be given the choice of stumping up in sterling or in the local currency – and the sensible choice is the latter, allowing your bank to convert the sum to sterling later on.

But many shops, hotels and restaurants have other ideas, and convert your bill into sterling without asking you, using their own brazenly uncompetitive conversion rates. To add insult to injury, they stick on an exchange commission of up to 4%. Cheeky.

Steering clear: it’s a good golden rule to use the credit card only for larger purchases from established vendors, then remember to tell them you want to pay in their home currency.

THE PRETEND POLICEMEN

It’s a classic scam, because it works. The well-spoken young backpacker who told me this cautionary tale has, perhaps wisely, opted for anonymity: “I was hanging out in Cuzco, Peru, when I met a local guy, and we became friends. He showed me some of the ruins, we had a few beers, then, one night, he said, ‘You are my friend, you are kind to me. I want to give you a present.’ And he gives me a fistful of marijuana.

About an hour later, I was walking back to my hostel. Two men were waiting outside the front gate. They told me they were policemen and asked me to empty my pockets. When they found the dope, they told me I’d spend four years in prison for dealing drugs... unless I paid them $200 to forget everything. Panicking in a dark street, I paid up there and then – and never saw my ‘friend’ again.”

Steering clear: don’t do drugs. In general terms, if you get yourself into a similarly sticky situation, remember that your safety is the priority. Try calmly to make the issue public, getting other people involved, preferably the real police – although if you’ve got a pocketful of hash, that’s going to be tricky. If you’re alone, consider coughing up.

THE SHONKY EXCHANGE BOOTH

There are so many scams involving exchange booths, it’s, fittingly, hard to keep count. There will always be occasions when you need to change cash but there’s no bank about, so more informal converters come into play. Most are perfectly legitimate, but signs that all is not well include: the teller shuffling and counting out bills in absurdly small denominations, which makes keeping score a chore; a disturbance or argument that conveniently flares up just as you’re trying to count your cash; and anything involving opaque envelopes, which will probably turn out to contain newspaper clippings.

Steering clear: always change money in a pair, so one of you can concentrate while the other fends off any distractions. Get a receipt, and choose fixed premises, not a bunco booth or a bloke with a briefcase, so you’ll have somewhere to take the police if you do get short-changed.

THE DODGY DRINKING BUDDY

Many of us have been caught in the “nice” version of this scam – a friendly stranger takes you drinking in a foreign land, pays a fraction of what it’s costing you for the same round of drinks, then takes a backhander from the bar-owner at closing time for hauling your well-fleeced backsides into the establishment. No big deal.

But a nasty version has, travellers’ websites suggest, taken root in the newly fashionable slacker beach resorts of Venezuela. This time, your pretend buddy slips you a jungle version of Rohypnol, known as burundanga. This generates about three hours of stumbling incapacity, during which time you are roundly robbed.

The Foreign Office reports that burundanga is also being used in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, to sedate travellers by touch, using laced pamphlets and flyers. But booze is the most common delivery system – because who spots a drooling backpacker? Unsurprisingly, Thailand is also becoming a drink-doping hot spot.

Steering clear: with the “nice” scam, it’s probably best to relax – frankly, if everyone knows what’s happening, what’s the harm? To avoid getting burundangaed, watch your own drink in a bar, favour bottled products and always think carefully about going clubbing before you fly solo.

THE UNLICENSED TAXI

You’re tired, there’s a queue at the taxi rank, so you accept the cheery offer of an unofficial taxi. From this point on, a good outcome is that you’ll be overcharged, or forced to stop off at the driver’s brother’s souvenir shop on the way to your hotel.

The bad outcome is unthinkably bad. In 2006, an Austrian couple on a round-the-world trip got into a fake taxi at the bus terminal in La Paz, Bolivia – and were kidnapped. Their bank cards and Pin numbers were taken and they were held captive for five days, while their bank accounts were emptied. They were then killed.

Steering clear: never get in unofficial taxis – full stop. And, sadly, it seems the old traveller’s tradition of sharing taxis to save money is no longer safe – the poor Austrian couple, and the others who have escaped similar ordeals (chiefly in South America), were partly undone by gang members posing as travellers and getting into their taxi. Only share rides with those you trust, and never permit the driver to pick up another passenger.

THE SHOESHINERS OF ISTANBUL

Some scams are much more harmless. The many young men who scratch a living shoeshining in Istanbul have an elegant moneymaking trick. They’ve developed the art of inadvertently dropping their brush behind them in the street, in a holidaymaker’s path.

You pick it up and take it to them, and they thank you effusively for saving the vital tool of their trade – it’ll probably turn out to be their grandfather’s shoe brush. To say thanks, they offer you a free shine, and, as your toes are buffed, you’ll hear a long hard-luck story, designed to loosen the stiffest wallet.

Steering clear: Why steer clear? If your shoes need polishing, accept the offer, enjoy the story and pay the man. Once your leather’s nice and shiny, you’ll be left well alone.

THE METAL-DETECTOR SHUFFLE

A clever one, this – you put your belongings on the conveyor belt, but a man bustles past you in a desperate hurry. He then gets himself held up at the detector, emptying his pockets of innumerable coins, keys and collectables. While you wait patiently, the guy who was in the queue in front of you – Mr Metal’s accomplice – waits for your bag, then nicks it.

US airports, where security chaos and wealthy travellers collide, seem most blighted by this – in 1997, a Texan oil baroness passing through Newark airport was diddled out of her handbag, which contained jewellery worth more than £300,000.

Steering clear: watch your stuff, stand your ground – and, in general, think twice about using your luggage to advertise your wealth.

AND FINALLY

THE BUS SCAM SCAM

Finally, an answer to the question: “How stupid can people be?” According to insurance-industry reports, this stunt has reeled in gullible travellers across the USA and Canada. It goes like this – you are approached by someone in a bar who guarantees you thousands of dollars if you join in a scam by getting on a bus that they will rear-end somewhere along its route.

Most of the passengers, you are promised, will be in on the fraud, and will all protest that it was the driver’s fault, while rubbing their hips and necks. And the bus company will start handing out cash and liability-waiver forms immediately. To get a piece of the action, all you have to do is pay your new friend a $250 fixer’s fee and get on the assigned bus.

Next day, you get on the bus, winking at all your fellow passengers, and, as the journey passes without incident, you slowly realise that you are an incurable chump.

http://travel.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/travel/your_say/article3287518.ece
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rynner
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PostPosted: 21-03-2008 07:49    Post subject: Reply with quote

The great British share swindle
By Terry Messenger
BBC Money Programme

Britain's 10 million small shareholders are being systematically targeted by an international criminal network of fake investment firms who have conned them out of millions of pounds.

When Dr John Ashley got a letter from Spain offering him free advice on his savings, he thought it wouldn't do any harm to say yes.

How wrong he was. Eighteen months later and £60,000 poorer, Dr Ashley rued the day he listened to Madrid-based investment firm Benjamin Fisher.

He is one of Britain's 10 million small shareholders who are being systematically targeted by an international criminal network of fake investment firms.

The scam investment firms, known as "boiler rooms", have fleeced ordinary British savers out of hundreds of millions of pounds in a massive swindle which may add up to the UK's biggest theft.

The Money Programme looked at three examples that have left ordinary investors out of pocket.

Dr Ashley, from Cheshire, ended up buying £60,000 of shares through Benjamin Fisher - which crashed in value and proved to be unsaleable at any price.

He was devastated. He says, "If I could have given my two kids 30 grand off their mortgage, I'm sure they'd be absolutely delighted. That would be a lot more pleasant than looking at a big hole in my bank account."

Benjamin Fisher hooked Dr Ashley by offering him a free report on a legitimate company in which he owned shares.

He returned a form requesting the report, giving Benjamin Fisher his phone number and consenting to being contacted with further information.

The next he knew, a friendly and insistent salesman was on the phone offering him shares in a mining company, supposedly with great prospects. He was tempted and invested a small sum.

The share price rose and he bought more and more from Benjamin Fisher of what are known as Regulation S shares, believing he was on to a winner.

What he did not realise was that Regulation S shares are almost impossible to sell on. And to make things even worse, the share price crashed, leaving his investment of £60,000 with a value of £5,000.

Dr Ashley is far from alone. The scam has been going for decades, starting in the US.

Boiler rooms first sprang up in pre-war New York where, according to the legend, mobsters rented boiler rooms in Wall Street offices, because that was all they could afford.

But lately, the FBI has cracked down in America, so the "boiler room" companies have turned their attention to Britain.

The City of London Police has set up Operation Archway, headed by DCI Bob Wishart, to tackle the growing threat to the UK.

DCI Wishart says: "We did a conservative estimate based on what victims have reported to us, where we believed in excess of $100m had been lost. We actually believe that figure could be far higher, potentially $400m, $500m."

Glitzy offices

The second case examined by the Money Programme concerned Pacific Continental Securities, an investment company based in the City of London.

Pacific Continental has links through intermediary companies with the firm that scammed Dr Ashley. And it has many of the characteristics of a boiler room.

Simon Mitchell from Sussex lost £45,000 on Regulation S shares bought through Pacific Continental. He fell for the bait during a visit to the firm's impressive seventh floor offices in a glitzy tower block near St Paul's.

"The place was buzzing. Every terminal was manned," he says. "There were people standing up doing the buy-buy-buy, sell-sell scenario.

"And I thought to myself, Simon, you're looking to build a relationship with a financial broker who's going to help you make good money."

But for Simon and many others, it all proved to be a facade.

Stephen Alexander is a lawyer who is helping people who lost money through Pacific Continental and has calculated the scale of the problem.

He says: "We've had in over 2,500 written complaints regarding the sales practices and the mis-selling carried out by Pacific Continental. The losses, potentially, are running into hundreds of millions of pounds."

The owner of Pacific Continental denied his company had done anything improper and claimed that the UK financial regulator, the Financial Services Authority, was aware of the firm's business practices and raised no objection.

Nondescript HQ

The third case examined by the Money Programme involved a company called Newbridge International, based in Barcelona.

Bob Walker from Darlington bought about £5,000 of Regulation S shares in a life sciences firm recommended by Newbridge International. He bought half from Newbridge and half direct from the life sciences company. They too proved unsaleable.

Although its website gives the impression it is based in a glitzy skyscraper, the only address it gives out is for a PO box number.

The Money Programme eventually tracked the operation down to a nondescript building in Barcelona.

Newbridge insisted it warned investors that its investments would be high-risk and that the shares they sold were Regulation S.

But investor Bob Walker said he received written warnings only after he had paid for his shares.

DCI Bob Wishart had this warning for investors about boiler rooms: "Their incentive is purely down to extracting as much money as they can from every individual they can, and moving on."

And Jonathan Phelan of the Financial Services Authority says: "If every consumer was willing to hang up the phone and recognise what a boiler room was, then the menace of boiler rooms would be dead and gone for ever."

When it comes to fantastic sounding investment schemes, it seems that the old adage is as true as ever: if something appears to be too good to be true, then it probably is.


City of London Police is responsible for co-ordinating Operation Archway, the national intelligence reporting system for boiler room fraud. If you think you have been a victim of this type of fraud, visit the City of London Police website at: www.cityoflondon.police.uk

The Money Programme: The Great British Shares Swindle, BBC2 at 1900 on Friday, 21 March.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7306363.stm
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H_JamesOffline
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PostPosted: 21-03-2008 14:54    Post subject: Reply with quote

rynner wrote:
THE DODGY DRINKING BUDDY

But a nasty version has, travellers’ websites suggest, taken root in the newly fashionable slacker beach resorts of Venezuela. This time, your pretend buddy slips you a jungle version of Rohypnol, known as burundanga. This generates about three hours of stumbling incapacity, during which time you are roundly robbed.

The Foreign Office reports that burundanga is also being used in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, to sedate travellers by touch, using laced pamphlets and flyers. But booze is the most common delivery system – because who spots a drooling backpacker? Unsurprisingly, Thailand is also becoming a drink-doping hot spot.
Interesting from a UL point of view?
Are there actually any drugs which can be transmitted by touch?
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markbellisOffline
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PostPosted: 21-03-2008 15:52    Post subject: Reply with quote

H_James wrote:

Interesting from a UL point of view?
Are there actually any drugs which can be transmitted by touch?


Sure, but they're nerve gas agents - I think it's highly unlikely that a street criminal is going to be able to synthesize it, keep themselves from being exposed while handing it out in the street - (I think you'd notice somebody wearing rubber gloves while trying to hand out flyers ) - and then follow their victims around until it took effect especially when they could just knock them on the head or pull a knife and demand the goods.

It does sound like the FO is taking an urban legend seriously:

Quote:
Do not accept pamphlets in the street or major shopping centres, as there have been incidents of these having been impregnated with potent and disorienting drugs, which permeate the skin. Tourists’ drinks have also been spiked.


Quote:
http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1007029390590&a=KCountryAdvice&aid=1013618386586


It's more likely tourists get disoriented from the heat and too much booze, get robbed by opportunists and blame something else.
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PostPosted: 11-04-2008 09:33    Post subject: Reply with quote

Couple made up 16 children in benefit fraud
Steven Morris The Guardian, Friday April 11 2008

A man who claimed more than £75,000 in benefits by inventing 16 children who did not exist to fund his gambling addiction was jailed for 20 months yesterday.

David Wilshaw, 58, and partner Nancy Stevenson, 59, fabricated a huge family to milk the system for four years. The fraud began when Wilshaw applied for tax credits for two of Stevenson's children who did exist and nobody asked to see birth certificates or other proof. He went on to make up the names of 16 children and pocketed more than £400 a week for them between 2003 and 2007.

Bristol crown court heard Wilshaw spent up to £600 a week in betting shops and Stevenson drank at least two bottles of brandy a day. Shocked

Wilshaw, who masterminded the scheme, was sentenced to 20 months in prison after admitting 42 charges of fraud, two charges of handling stolen goods and obtaining property by deception.

Stevenson avoided jail because she had played a "lesser role" and Wilshaw had transferred just £9,000 of the money into her account. She admitted one charge of money laundering and a further charge of tax credit fraud and was given a 12-month supervised community order.

The court heard that Wilshaw would claim he was adopting or fostering the 16 children - despite living in a one bedroom flat. Cool The couple were arrested in March after 12 Inland Revenue investigators swooped on their home in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.

Wilshaw, who had 85 previous convictions for fraud, said after his arrest in March: "I'm doing a public service by identifying this massive loophole." Rolling Eyes
He will appear in court again next month for a confiscation hearing.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/apr/11/ukcrime1
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PostPosted: 18-04-2008 09:27    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jobless lorry driver 'sold' The Ritz hotel to businessman in £250million con
By BETH HALE
Last updated at 09:35am on 18th April 2008

When businessman Terry Collins was offered the chance to buy the Ritz Hotel for a knockdown price of £250million it was an opportunity that sounded too good to be true.

And it was indeed too good to be true. The hotel, with an estimated market value of around £600million, was not on the market.

Yet two conmen managed to persuade Mr Collins, co-founder of a large and reputable property company, that the hotel's owners, the Barclay brothers, were prepared to sell it at a bargain price.

Anthony Lee and Patrick Dolan convinced an intermediary that they represented the Barclays and even had a team of lawyers on board to give the plan respectability.

Negotiations went on for months and eventually Mr Collins, of London Allied Holdings, borrowed £1million from Dutch businessman and financier Marcel Boekhoorn to pay Lee a deposit in December 2006 for the release of 27 boxes of purchase documentation held by his solicitors.

But the papers did not exist and the Barclays were oblivious of the ruse.

Lee turned out to be an unemployed lorry driver and bankrupt with no connections whatsoever to the brothers. Dolan, too, was unemployed.

The elaborate fraud emerged yesterday in a judgment handed down at the High Court in London as the two victims of the fraud battled over the £ 1million which was immediately spent by Lee and Dolan.

Lee, 47, bought a £55,000 Land Rover as a Christmas present for his girlfriend Jennifer Hodgson, then took her on a luxury cruise.

He sent £59,000 to his creditors and paid rent arrears on his Yorkshire bungalow.

Dolan, 66, bought a Mercedes for £43,000 and splashed out on a lavish day at Cheltenham races, where he bet and lost heavily.

He paid off the £30,000 mortgage on his house in Barnet, North London, and paid £293,410 to his wife.

In yesterday's judgment, Mr Justice Henderson said: "The Barclay brothers were known by Mr Collins to have the reputation of being extremely secretive in the conduct of their business affairs, and it did not strike him as implausible that they would wish to structure a transaction of this sort through an intermediary such as Mr Lee."

For five months Mr Collins was engaged in extensive and detailed negotiations with Lee and his solicitor.

To clinch the deal Lee convinced Mr Collins that another buyer was on the scene.

It was at that point that Mr Collins contacted Mr Boekhoorn, of a firm called Apvodedo, and outlined the opportunity. An agreement was reached.

The judge continued: "Readers of this judgment will perhaps have guessed by now that Mr Collins and London Allied Holdings (and indirectly Apvodedo and Mr Boekhoorn) were the victims of an elaborate fraud.

"Mr Lee and Mr Dolan were not currently involved in the property business, nor were they authorised in any way to act as intermediaries on behalf of the Barclay brothers.

"Mr Lee was an unemployed HGV driver and was an undischarged bankrupt throughout his dealings with LAH.

"Mr Dolan was a former contracts manager for a construction company-who had also been unemployed since 2000."

Mr Collins sued the pair as soon as he realised he would not receive the documents or a refund, and a High Court judge agreed an order allowing the tracing of funds.

Originally, Apvodedo helped LAH in its efforts to recover the money, but in October 2007 issued a claim for £1million against Mr Collins and LAH.

Mr Collins says he is not liable for the money because both he and Mr Boekhoorn believed the deal was genuine.

Mr Justice Henderson dismissed Mr Boekhoorn's application for an immediate ruling over the money and said the case needed to go to full trial.

North Yorkshire Police said an inquiry was continuing, although no arrests have been made.

Mr Collins said it was the legal element of the deal that had been so convincing.

"If the lawyers hadn't been there we would have laughed in their faces," he said. "We are still very angry."

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=560296&in_page_id=1770
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Black River FallsOffline
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PostPosted: 18-04-2008 11:20    Post subject: Reply with quote

when i worked for a govt dept a few years ago, things were moving towards having a small number of 'superagents' do our construction work for us, as apparently it's better value than using lots of smaller companys.

Some of those 'superagents' have been on the take:

Quote:
UK Construction Firms Accused In Price-fixing Probe; Balfour Beatty, Carillion Granted Leniency - Update [BBY.L]

4/17/2008 8:20:16 AM The Office of Fair Trading accused 112 construction firms in England for engaging in bid rigging activities, as part of the largest-ever investigation into the industry.

U.K's construction majors Balfour Beatty Plc (BBY.L, BAFBF.PK) and Carillion Plc(CLLN.L, CIOIF.PK) are among the 112 construction companies accused by the Office of Fair Trading, or OFT, for plotting plans to con taxpayers in a bid-rigging scandal.

In two separate releases, Balfour Beatty and Carillion said that the OFT has granted leniency to the companies, thus reducing any fine which might ultimately be levied.

Other firms that are reportedly included in the allegation are Connaught Plc, Interserve Plc, Morgan Sindall Plc, Kier Group Plc, Rok Plc, Galliford Try, Ballast Nedam NV and Henry Boot Plc.

The OFT alleges that the construction companies have engaged in bid rigging activities, and in particular cover pricing, a situation where one or more bidders collude with a competitor during a tender process to obtain a price or prices which are intended to be too high to win the contract.

As per its investigation, the OFT claimed that the building firms throughout the East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside formed a construction cartel which fixed the prices of tenders on a range of public sector and local authority projects, including hospitals, schools and universities.

Under the Competition Act, any company found to be a member of a cartel could be fined as much as 10% of its annual revenue.

John Fingleton, OFT Chief Executive officer, said, “Cartel activity of the type alleged today harms the economy by distorting competition and keeping prices artificially high.” He added, “This investigation, together with the OFT's previous decisions in the roofing sector, will hopefully send out a strong message to the construction industry about the seriousness with which we view suspected anti-competitive behaviour.”

The OFT started its cartel investigation in 2004 after receiving a specific complaint in Midlands. During the course of the investigation, OFT found more than 3 billion pounds worth of tenders as evidence of bid rigging in thousands of orders. The investigation also found bidders on a contract colluding to ensure the firm with the winning tender paid “compensation payments” to the losing bidders.

OFT has asked all the 112 firms to reply to its allegations issued in Statements of Objections which it will take into account before making a final decision as to whether competition law has been infringed.

Out of 112, 37 firms, including Balfour Beatty and Carillion, have applied for leniency while 40 other companies have admitted participation in some bid-rigging activities.

Balfour Beatty said that the company and its operating businesses have co-operated fully with the OFT in all aspects of its investigation.

As a result and subject to ongoing co-operation, the OFT has granted leniency to Balfour Beatty. The company added that it would respond to the OFT in respect of its statement of objections in due course.

Separately, Carillion noted that it has received Statement of Objections relating to tender activities in the construction sector. Carillion said that it would fully co-operate with the OFT's investigation and respond to its Statement of Objections in due course.
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PostPosted: 21-04-2008 08:21    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fraudsters net a fortune in Facebook scam
By Richard Elias

A SCOTTISH businessman had almost £30,000 stolen from his bank account after revealing details of his affluent lifestyle on a social networking site, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.
The victim's account was raided within hours of him bragging online about driving his luxury German car, relaxing in his boat and skiing in the United States.

It is the latest example of a growing trend among cybercriminals to turn away from direct attacks on relatively secure bank accounts and to exploit social-networking sites, such as Facebook, Bebo and Myspace. Fraudsters routinely try to persuade users to give away apparently innocuous personal details that can be used to devastating effect.

A Strathclyde Police source said that in another recent case, a young woman in Dumfries revealed on Bebo she was about to attend a school reunion. A fraudster posed as an old school friend and was able to get her date of birth and eBay password. According to the source, the information was used within hours to steal £3,000 from the woman's bank account.

"The victim was lured into a false sense of security by a series of innocent questions, the answer to one of which simply opened the door to her savings," the source said. "Many people think they are too smart to be conned and would recognise the scams, but they do not have any idea about how professional these (scams] are. They have come a long way since the days when they were mis-spelt, amateurish and clearly made up."

In the case of the businessman, which occurred last year, he wrote on Facebook about driving his BMW coupe and spending time relaxing in his boat or "skiing in Colorado".

The police source said: "The description clearly indicated an individual with wealth and it would have leapt out of the pages to the gang. He may well have just written: 'I'm loaded.' The fraudsters then just send him a bogus e-mail, purporting to be from the networking site, asking him to confirm certain details such as his name, date-of-birth and e-mail address, which he subsequently provided and that was enough to see him ripped off for about 30 grand.

"This is becoming a real problem because many people who use Bebo or the such like are not on their guard as they would be if they were checking their bank account online."

It is estimated that one-in-four online social networkers – around 11m in the UK alone – has posted details that fraudsters could use. Fraud experts say almost 90% of users register their full name. Details about where an individual went to school or college and even which football team they support can all be used to help the gangs hack into accounts.

Part of the problem is that many computer users only have one password which they use for everything from a social networking site to a bank account. Some sites allow users to recover a lost password by answering a standard security question, typically "what is your mother's maiden name". A fraudster who can get the answer to that – plus a few other details – has the potential to raid a bank account within hours.

"I've seen e-mail addresses posted, dates-of-birth, property details, even home phone numbers," said the source. "Just one of these pieces of information can be used to extract more personal details, but all four is just giving these people an open invitation to steal. If a stranger came up to you in the pub and asked for that information, there's no way you would give it to them, so why stick in online for everyone to see?"

Online security company Symantec, has just published its latest survey on internet crime, looking at instances across the globe over the past six months. It says the UK is fourth in the table of countries worst hit by crime gangs. Some gangs will use the information they glean to rip off unsuspecting customers; others will sell the details to other fraudsters through instant messaging sites, which may only run for a few hours. It is here that credit-card numbers can be bought for £5, while passwords are on offer for 20p.

The Symantec report states: "Underground economy servers are black market forums used to advertise and trade stolen information and services, typically for identity theft. Their locations is constantly changing due to the nature of these servers, which are often hosted as channels on internet relay chatrooms."

How to stay safe

Protect yourself against identity theft:

• Buy a shredder;

• A classic scam is to redirect your mail to a "dead letterbox". If your mail stops coming, contact Post Office;

• If you live anywhere with a communal hall, make sure your letterbox is secure;

• If you go away, even briefly, tell your bank, credit card firm and the Post Office, in order to stop mail gathering at door;

• Never let credit cards out of your sight when paying;

• Never post your home number, address or personal e-mail on networking sites

http://news.scotsman.com/scitech/Fraudsters-net-a-fortune-.3976699.jp
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PostPosted: 02-05-2008 07:40    Post subject: Reply with quote

Art teacher sold fake pottery for thousands
By Richard Savill
Last Updated: 3:17AM BST 02/05/2008

A former public school art teacher duped auction houses into selling fake antique pots he made in his shed.

Jeremy Broadway, 52, who used to teach at Bryanston school in Dorset and has a masters degree in ceramics, made thousands of pounds from his fraud.

Bournemouth Crown Court was told that he spent hours copying the work of the renowned late potters Bernard Leach and Lucie Rie.

He made dozens of bowls and vases that he stamped with his own version of the potters' seal to make them appear genuine. He then convinced auctioneers, including Christie's and Bonhams, to offer them for sale.

Bonhams unwittingly sold two fake Leach vases and a Rie pot for a total of £8,900.

Christie's put three bowls purportedly made by Rie up for sale for £17,000 but withdrew them before the auction after doubts were expressed about their authenticity.

Broadway was caught after he returned to Bonhams with more pieces and its head of contemporary ceramics, Ben Williams, discovered they were fakes.

Mr Williams then alerted other auction rooms and buyers after noticing Broadway's work for sale in their catalogues.

Broadway told the police he had inherited the pots and vases from his late father-in-law and he thought they were genuine.

But when police raided his home in the village of Child Okeford, Dorset, they found a studio in an outbuilding, with a potter's wheel and kiln.

The seal stamps were also found along with a number of recently finished bowls with the Rie mark on their bases
.

Police found that collectors across Europe had bought his bogus work between 2003 and 2006 and spent months tracking down and recovering the fakes.

Broadway was charged with obtaining money by deception but he was found mentally unfit to plead and the case was proved in his absence. He was given a 12-month supervision order under the Mental Health Act.

Broadway is thought to have made £20,000 from his deception.

Mr Williams said: "I realised I had made a mistake. I was fooled and I thought the ones I sold were real. Embarassed

"It is a bit embarrassing really. I could have ignored it but it was a mistake I made that needed to be sorted out."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1918653/Art-teacher-sold-fake-pottery-for-thousands.html
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