Investment Fraud – Christopher Anzalone pleads Guilty faces Prison

January 23, 2015

California resident pled guilty today to his leading of a commodities and investment fraud scheme that yielded an aggregate amount of over $16 million in investments from victims for the purported purchase of precious metal positions and over-the-counter stock.

Commodities FraudAccording to the charging and plea documents:

From 2010 to December 2011, Liberty International Financial Services, Inc. (LIFS) was an investment firm in Fort Lauderdale with brokers who solicited investors for the purchase of purported precious metals positions in gold, silver, and palladium. Christopher Anzalone, 31, was a co-founder of LIFS and was responsible for overseeing LIFS brokers. Contrary to representations made to investors by LIFS brokers, LIFS invested less than $200,000 of the approximately $4 million provided by investors for the purchase of precious metals positions.

From mid-2011 through 2013, Liberty International Holding Corporation (LIHC) was a holding corporation in Fort Lauderdale whose stock traded in the over-the-counter market. LIHC brokers solicited investors for the purchase of LIHC stock. Anzalone was the co-founder of LIHC. Anzalone represented to brokers, and had brokers represent to potential investors, that LIHC had substantial assets, including a substantial position in metals held in a Panamanian depository. In truth and in fact, as Anzalone well knew, LIHC did not hold these positons or any assets of real value. Induced by misrepresentations made by LIHC brokers, investors purchased more than $9 million in LIHC shares.

From October 2012 through October 2013, Allied Financial Strategies, Inc. (Allied) was an investment firm operating in Miami. Allied brokers solicited investors primarily for the purchase of LIHC stock. Anzalone and co-conspirators induced investors to purchase LIHC shares by falsely and fraudulently representing to investors that a hedge fund or other large investment funds intended to purchase a substantial block of LIHC shares at an over-inflated price compared to the LIHC market price of those same shares. Anzalone used co-conspirators to falsely and fraudulently pose as other investors or hedge fund representatives to induce prospective investors to invest monies. Based on these false representations by these co-conspirators, investors wired over $3 million to accounts controlled by the co-conspirators.


Noah L. Myers Guilty of “Cherry-Picking” Securities fraud – Investment Advisor Unethical and Illegal Activity

January 16, 2015

NOAH L. MYERS, 43 was sentenced to 40 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for defrauding investment clients in a “cherry-picking” securities scheme.  MYERS also was ordered to perform 150 hours of community service.

securities fraud“Investors have a right to the fair and ethical management of their savings,” stated U.S. Attorney Daly.  “The sentence imposed today serves as ample warning that money managers who breach their clients trust in violation of federal securities laws will be prosecuted and risk losing their freedom and ill-gotten gains.  We thank the FBI and the SEC for their efforts in uncovering this cherry-picking scheme.”

“Cherry-picking” is a fraudulent securities trading practice in which the responsible individual executes trades without assigning those trades to a particular trading account until the individual determines whether or not the trade has become profitable or suffered losses.  The responsible individual then allocates the profitable trades to favored accounts – often the individual’s own account – and assigns unprofitable trades to disfavored client accounts.

According to court documents and statements made in court, MYERS was the sole owner of MiddleCove Capital, LLC (“MiddleCove”), a Connecticut limited liability company with its principal place of business in the Centerbrook section of Essex.  MiddleCove had been registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) as an investment adviser since 2008, and MYERS was the portfolio manager and managed a number of client accounts with assets of approximately $129 million.  MiddleCove used Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (“Schwab”) to trade securities and as the custodian of the investments held in client accounts.  As part of the trading arrangement with Schwab, MYERS was permitted to place block purchases and sales of securities through a master account with Schwab and then, later in the day, allocate the purchases and sales to various accounts, including his personal accounts and various client accounts, all held by Schwab.

Between April 2009 and November 2010, MYERS engaged in “cherry-picking” at MiddleCove by purchasing the leveraged exchange traded fund (ETF) ProShares UltraShort Financials, otherwise known by its ticker symbol “SKF,” as well as other securities.  MYERS then disproportionately allocated trades that had appreciated in value during the course of the day to his personal and business accounts and allocated trades that had depreciated in value during the day to the accounts of his advisory clients.  As a result, MYERS gained as his clients suffered commensurate trading losses.

For example, in August 2009, on the nine days when MYERS purchased SKF in block trades in the master account and the security was sold as a day trade, MYERS allocated between 9 percent and 32 percent of the profitable block trades to his personal accounts.  On three of those days he allocated between 27 percent and 31 percent of the profitable day trades to his personal accounts.

In addition, on September 2, 2009, MYERS purchased SKF in a block trade in the master account and, after the investment increased in value, sold the shares in a day trade and allocated more than 31 percent of the investment to his personal accounts.  In sharp contrast, MYERS undertook four additional block purchases in the master account of SKF on September 3, 4, 16 and 28, 2009.  On each of these days, when the SKF investment declined in value by the close of trading, MYERS allocated no more than 5 percent of the block trade to his personal accounts and instead allocated the remaining 95 percent of the shares to his clients’ accounts.

In filings with the SEC in April 2009 and March 2010, MYERS and MiddleCove represented that batched trades would be allocated fairly and not unduly favor MYERS or MiddleCove.

On January 16, 2013, the SEC issued an order revoking the registration of MiddleCove as an investment adviser and barred MYERS from the securities industry.  MYERS also was ordered to pay $462,022 disgorgement, $26,096 in prejudgment interest, and a civil penalty of $300,000.

On October 20, 2014, MYERS waived his right to indictment and pleaded guilty to one count of security fraud.


Dan Frishberg “The Money Man” Charged by the SEC with Fraudulent Conduct! BizRadio’s Scam Artist Exposed…

March 25, 2011

To be honest, as I pen this latest blog entry, there is no joy.  Yet, it is not a surprise either.  Dan Frishberg, despite his puffery and position – claiming to the “the Money Man” has finally been charged by the SEC for his role in defrauding numerous investors out of millions.  Today many now know that what has been claimed about Dan is true.  He has not acted in the best interest of his clients and as a result – one of the outcomes is that Dan “The Money Man” Frishberg is barred from association with any investment adviser or certain other registered entities.

The SEC News Release reads as follows in its entirety:

Washington, D.C., March 25, 2011 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Houston-area businessman Daniel Frishberg with fraudulent conduct in connection with promissory note offerings made to clients of his investment advisory firm.

The SEC alleges that Frishberg’s firm Daniel Frishberg Financial Services (DFFS) advised clients to invest in notes issued by Business Radio Networks (BizRadio), a media company founded by Frishberg where he hosts his own show under the nickname “The MoneyMan.” Frishberg failed to tell his clients about BizRadio’s poor financial condition or his significant conflicts of interest with the note offerings that helped fund his salary at BizRadio.

Frishberg agreed to settle the SEC’s charges by paying a $65,000 penalty that will be distributed to harmed investors. He will be barred from future association with any investment adviser.

“Contrary to his obligations as an investment adviser, Frishberg approved risky investment recommendations to his clients without ensuring that the risks and conflicts were properly disclosed,” said Rose Romero, Director of the SEC’s Fort Worth Regional Office. “Frishberg personally benefitted from the questionable investments that were recommended to his clients.”

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal district court in Houston, at least $11 million in promissory notes were issued by BizRadio and Kaleta Capital Management (KCM), which is owned by Frishberg’s associate Albert Fase Kaleta. Frishberg and Kaleta jointly controlled BizRadio.

The SEC charged Kaleta and his firm with fraud in 2009, and the court appointed a receiver to marshal the assets of KCM and relief defendants BizRadio and DFFS.

The SEC alleges that Frishberg authorized Kaleta to recommend the notes to DFFS clients, and clients were not provided with critical disclosures. Investors were not told of BizRadio’s poor financial condition and the likely inability of KCM and BizRadio to repay the notes. Nor were investors informed about Frishberg’s significant conflicts of interest in the note offerings because the proceeds funded his salary as a BizRadio talk show host.

The SEC alleges that Frishberg chose Kaleta to recommend the BizRadio notes even though he was aware of complaints about Kaleta’s lack of truthfulness in sales presentations regarding other investments.

The SEC’s complaint alleges that Frishberg violated Section 206(2) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and aided and abetted violations of Sections 206(1) and 206(2) of the Advisers Act.

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Frishberg consented to the entry of a permanent injunction against these violations and to pay a $65,000 penalty. Frishberg consented to the establishment of a fair fund for the distribution of his penalty to harmed investors, and agreed to be barred from association with any investment adviser or certain other registered entities.

# # #

For more information about this enforcement action, contact:

Rose Romero
Regional Director, SEC’s Fort Worth Regional Office
(817) 978-3821

Stephen J. Korotash
Associate Regional Director, SEC’s Fort Worth Regional Office
(817) 978-6490

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

Well for starters…those who lost a whole bunch of money and thought they might get it back…well think again.  Dan’s $65,000 penalty is a small price to pay for the $11 million fraud.  To be clear, I have not had any inside information, but I suspect that Dan’s out of money otherwise I suspect the SEC would have exacted a larger fine as part of their role is to protect the public.  Oh well…

CRIMINAL INDICTMENT ON THE HORIZON?

Rose Romero, Director of the SEC’s Fort Worth Regional Office stated, “Frishberg personally benefited from the questionable investments that were recommended to his clients.”  So does this mean that he could be the target of a criminal indictment?

So we are all clear, the SEC has NO CRIMINAL enforcement authority – only civil.  Therefore the actions of the SEC are likely the best they could get under the circumstances.  Effectively they squeezed blood out of the turnip and barred Dan from any role as an investment advisor.  Now regarding criminal…well, as I’m told the statue of limitations is longer for any criminal issues, so I suspect that the US Attorney, FBI or others may still be looking into this case and (my opinion here) it might hinge on what Dan does next.  For example, if Dan were to “man up” and quit his radio show where he is still huffing and puffing about his wisdom…he might avoid more consequences.  On the other hand…should he stay on the radio and continue his advice (although who would want to listen)…then there might be more interest in criminal charges.

My guess is that if there are enough folks who have been harmed by the talented Mr. Frishberg who complain to the US Attorney or FBI, perhaps law enforcement will find the wisdom and logic to continue to investigate Dan Frishberg and extract consequences more fitting with his crime (that he did not admit).

PUBLICITY

One thing that Dan Frishberg liked is publicity…in fact, it seemed he craved it.  Well, he’s getting what he liked as he’s being reported on in the Wall Street Journal and other major news outlets.  Wonder, and I’ve got to ask, if Maria Bartiromo is going to interview Dan “The Money Man” again…or if she has finally figured out that is was all smoke and mirrors?

WANT YOUR VOICE HEARD?

If you feel that your voice needs to be heard here are two US Attorney’s that could be contacted – one in the Southern District of Texas (Houston Area) and one in the Northern (Dallas).  I suspect the Houston US Attorney is the one who would have the most interest, but since the SEC in Fort Worth brought the charges…I’m providing both.

José Angel Moreno, US Attorney Houston
P.O. Box 61129
Houston, TX 77208
(713)567-9000

James T. Jacks, US Attorney Dallas
1100 Commerce Street, Third Floor
Dallas, TX 75242-1699
(214)659-8600

SHARE YOUR VOICE –

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS SEC OUTCOME?


Bernie Madoff Will Plead Guilty! Fraud Prevention Expert Chuck Gallagher Speaks Out

March 9, 2009

In what will likely become the biggest investment fraud in US history, Bernie Madoff is set to enter a plea of guilty at a US District Court in Manhattan on Thursday.    According to Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marc Litt and Lisa Baroni a plea hearing is scheduled for March 12, 2009. artmadoff

According to a CNN report:

Madoff’s attorneys Ira Sorkin and Daniel Horowitz confirmed to CNN that Madoff is waiving his right to a grand jury indictment and that there have been ongoing negotiations regarding a possible settlement.

“We obviously have talked to the government,” said Horowitz. “And we have been professional with each other.” The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan had no comment.

Frankly, it would make sense that Madoff would enter a plea.  Anything beyond that would likely result in a sentence or punishment that would be less favorable to Madoff.  Let me, however, say, I don’t think the punishment will be anything to laugh at.  Madoff’s alleged crime is substantial enough that it will earn him many years in federal prison.  Based on his age, I have stated on more than one ocassion that Madoff may never see freedom again.  But, that is just speculation.

PERSPECTIVE:

As many of my readers know, I have been through what Madoff is facing now.  Here’s a reality check – if you fight the federal government, you will likely end up with a substantially longer sentence.  The government (for the most part) will do whatever is necessary to gain a “win”!  The governments role is not to make the victims whole or even to discover who or how many people have been victimized.  The role of the government is to bring those who break the law to justice.  And the easier you make it for them to “win” the more likely one is to receive a moderate to light sentence.

Now, having said that, I also know that there are victims who get angry when they discover that the government doesn’t really care about their loss or their plight.  If a victim can help the government win, then the government is interested.  But, when the US Attorney has sufficient evidence to win or gets an admission of guilt on a plea agreement (which is exactly what Madoff – through his attorneys – will enter on Thursday) they are done.  The rest of victims claim will come in other legal suits that will be brought against a multitude of organizations.

In Madoff’s case – gaining a guilty plea should be easy since Madoff basically admitted guilty publically.  CNN reported:

It was “basically, a giant Ponzi scheme,” Madoff said, according to the government’s criminal complaint. “There is no innocent explanation,” Madoff told two FBI agents, according to the complaint, which states Madoff expected to go to jail.

With a statement like that – it’s an easy win for the goverment.  The issue in the plea agreement is not guilt, but what Madoff will plead guilty to and what sentence has basically been agreed to in advance.  The government will get it’s win, but will the sentence be sufficient to satisfy the victims?  By the way, starting at 10:00 a.m. victims will have a chance to be heard by the judge.  Not that it matters all that much as I would guess that it’s pretty well decided.

REALITY CHECK:

Having been through it, (wish I could say other wise) the process will likely be fairly straight forward.  Madoff pleads guilty to “securities fraud”.  The judge hears from the victims.  The judge accepts Madoff’s guilty plea.

WHAT’S NEXT:

Hum…now that’s a good question.  Thus far Madoff has been under – shall we call it – “house arrest.”  Whether he’ll be allowed to continue that form of confinement or whether the judge will require him remanded to some form of federal prison awaiting sentencing remains to be seen.  Certainly this is public outcry for Madoff to be imprisoned.

There is little chance that Madoff will be sentenced on Thursday.  If this hearing is true to form, it will only be an admission of guilty.  Once entered and accepted, Madoff will have more time to wait until his sentencing hearning.  In my case I had to wait almost six months before being sentenced and then another four months before being required to report to federal prison.

I doubt it will take that long for Madoff, but it will likely take time.

According to the New York Times:

If Mr. Madoff does plead guilty on Thursday, it could nevertheless be several months before he is sentenced, several former prosecutors said. The single count of securities fraud that he faces now carries a prison term of up to 20 years.

The one thing I do find interesting in this case if that the government is only seeking an admission of guilt on ONE count of securities fraud.  With so many victims, it would seem that the government could easily win multiple admissions of guilt on items other than just ONE count of securities fraud.  It makes one wonder if the government isn’t being cooperative due to the backlash that could come if Madoff exposed the incompetence of the SEC?

Just a thought!

QUESTION:

1.  Assuming Madoff Pleads guilty – how much time do you feel he should serve for his crime?

2.  Should Madoff’s sentence be reduced if he helps locate available funds to help with restitution?

3.  Should charitable organizations get preferential treatment when it comes to restitution?

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


Fredric “Rick” Dryer – Ponzi Scheme Fraudster Sentenced to 132 Years in Prison. Ethics and Fraud Prevention Expert Chuck Gallagher Comments

February 22, 2009

Forty-four felon counts faced Fredric “Rick” Dryer as the judge prounced his sentence.  fredric_dryer_t220

“Thinking about this case last night, I wondered what makes you different than the people who put guns to victims’ heads?”  Judge Mansfield said prior to giving out the sentence. “Are the victims any less hurt?”

That question is being asked alot these days.  “Are victims any less hurt?”  In one sense yes and the other no.  Yes, there was not a physical violation, but the emotional toll that theft creates is significant.  I know.  I unfortunately created that pain in people I victimized many years ago.  And just like Dryer, I faced a judge and was sentenced…to prison.

Today, things are not that different than in 1986 when my crime was committed.  But for a moment let’s look at what Dryer did and why.

Ordered to pay $3.4 million in restitution, Dryer was sentenced to 132 years in state prison.  Now, practically speaking the restitution is moot.  Dryer, with a sentence like that, will more than likely die in prison.  There is little to no chance that any restitution will be made.

According to the Denver Business Journal:

Mile High Capital Group, a real estate investment group,  purported to sell duplex rental units to investors, who could then resell them for a profit. The company also had several sister companies that specialized in tax-deferred real estate transactions and rental property management.

Dryer and his associates promoted Mile High and its offshoots at heavily promoted events at high-end hotels throughout the United States.

But despite generating more than 1,000 contracts and $44 million in sales, the Greenwood Village-based company completed only about 32 duplex rental units, prosecutors said.

The scheme cost some investors their life savings. Investors ranged from blue-collar workers and Chinese immigrants to flight attendants and Harvard-educated attorneys.

While Dryer’s attorney said he will appeal his sentence, Dryer is a convicted felon, who was charged with a bank robbery in 1971 and two other securities fraud cases in the early 1980s, he’s not eligible for probation.  While it is not my intend to be judgemental, as I’ve been in his shoes, it does appear that Dryer didn’t learn from his past choices.

Every choice has a consequence.  As humans we all make choices daily and the choices that we make today will determine our future tomorrow.  Dryer had the opportunity on, what appears to be several occasions, to make better choices.  He elected no to and the price or consequence for his most recent set of choices – life and/or death in prison.  Not what most would call a pretty end.

SO HOW DOES ONE GET SCAMMED BY A PONZI SCHEME?

Reality check is – it is easy.  The fraudster just sucks you into the PIT.  Now for those of you who follow my blog, I have reported on this before in entries related to Bernie Madoff.  But if you have not read those let me help you with understanding the PIT.

The first part of most any financial fraud starts with the PROMISE ( P ).  Fortunately I was not a Dryer investor, but in all cases the PROMISE is a return better than what the average investor could gain if investing in the open market.

Now think of it, if someone told you that he/she could get you a return that practically no one else could get and get that return for you consistently year after year, wouldn’t you be interested?  Sure you would!  So POINT OF ADVICE:  If you wish to avoid being scammed, understand – if it sounds to good to be true – it LIKELY ISN’T TRUE!

The second part of the fraud triangle is the ILLUSION ( I ).  Promoted at high end hotels, investors though that they were investing in real estate ventures that for all practical purposes didn’t exist.  The illusion was created by the marketing and promotion.  For real estate the setting created – the perfect ILLUSION.

This second component of being defrauded is actually the hardest to crack.  Why?  Well, think of it, if you were that good at investing you wouldn’t need someone like Dryer and his team.  That said, a great ILLUSIONIST should be able to fool you.  Dryers clients were fooled and my of them were experienced investors.

That leads to the third and final component of fraud – TRUST ( T ).  In order to effectively pull a fraud off, someone has to trust the fraudster.  Now, having been a fraudster (not something I am proud of), I understand the mentality.  It is much easier to defraud someone who is close to you and trusts you than it is to defraud a stranger.  It isn’t that fraudsters want to hurt those closest to them, rather, it is just easier to convince someone who is close to you to trust you.  Trust here was established by the sheer number of investors.  Once there were contracts, there was the illusion that if one or a hundred made the leap then – “so should I.”

To illustrate this point – TRUST

Among the victims listed in the superseded indictment were Lori Fuller, Dietz’s sister, who invested $680,000 into Mile High and invested in two Mile High duplexes in Milliken, which were never built, according to the indictment.

According to the indictment, Fuller was promised returns of up to 12 percent on her investments. While Fuller received monthly payments for a “period of time,” the indictment states Dryer and Mile High didn’t return her principle.

Again, according to the Denver Business Journal:

While 35 investors are named in the indictment, records relating to Mile High’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy indicate that as many as 1,000 people nationwide could have lost as much as $35 million in the case.

AS A SIDE NOTE:

I have received many calls from investors who have been defrauded in other cases now being investigated or coming to light.  The investigators do not follow every lead and every person who has been defrauded.  They gain enough evidence to win the case.  Beyond that they understand that the likelyhood of loss recovery is slim and their role is to prosecute – not to make victims whole.

QUESTIONS:

  1. If you were defrauded by Dryer and his partners, would you contact me please.  I am writing a book and would like to interview you about how you were scammed.
  2. If you were scammed by Dryer, have you been advised that there is a provision of the Internal Revenue Code – Section 165(c)(2) which might help in your loss recovery?
  3. If you were scammed, would you consider commenting on this blog regarding how you feel about Dryer’s sentence?

AS ALWAYS YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


Madoff Ponzi Scheme – How Do Folks Get Defrauded? Comments by White Collar Crime Speaker Chuck Gallagher

February 14, 2009

Since the middle part of December when the Madoff scandal broke – the main question that has come up with each and every interview I’ve done is – how did these folks get defrauded?  If people can figure out how such a massive fraud was pulled off, perhaps they can begin to understand how to protect themselves.  Madoff’s victims fell into what I call the PIT.  And, once you take that first step into the slippery slop falling into the PIT it is hard to get out.bernie-madoff

THE   P I T:

The first part of most any financial fraud starts with the PROMISE ( P ).  Fortunately I was not a Madoff investor, but from all the reports thus far the attraction was that Madoff – because of his superior mind and amazing system – could produce consistent high returns regardless of market fluctuations.  That was the PROMISE.

Now think of it, if someone told you that he/she could get you a return that practically no one else could get and get that return for you consistently year after year, wouldn’t you be interested?  Sure you would!  So POINT OF ADVICE:  If you wish to avoid being scammed, understand – if it sounds to good to be true – it LIKELY ISN’T TRUE!

The second part of the fraud triangle is the ILLUSION ( I ).  From different sources in different ways, it has been reported that when one actually examines the statements that Madoff provided his clients – one could see that what they said as compared to the actual market actions were inconsistent.  In other words, Madoff seemed to rely on ignorance of the market and complexity to create – what would seem – the perfect ILLUSION.

Mind you, Madoff (and his team) was good.  Really good.  Rarely do Ponzi scheme operators provide such a grand ILLUSION that is sustained for such a long time.

This second component of being defrauded is actually the hardest to crack.  Why?  Well, think of it, if you were that good at investing you wouldn’t need someone like Madoff.  Therefore, with modern technology one can produce printed or on-line statements that can fool most any experienced auditor.  That said, a great ILLUSIONIST should be able to fool you.  Madoff’s clients were fooled and my of them were experienced investors.

That leads to the third and final component of fraud – TRUST ( T ).  In order to effectively pull a fraud off, someone has to trust the fraudster.  Now, having been a fraudster (not something I am proud of), I understand the mentality.  It is much easier to defraud someone who is close to you and trusts you than it is to defraud a stranger.  It isn’t that fraudsters want to hurt those closest to them, rather, it is just easier to convience someone who is close to you to trust you.

In Madoff’s case after his first victims invested and fell prey to the scam, they became the foundation for others to follow.  Not only was it trust in Madoff, but the trust was based on trust that others had done their homework so that investors that followed didn’t have to do theirs.

I believe in trust.  I also believe in logic when it comes to financial investments.  Therefore, RULE OF THUMB don’t invest with friends or friends of friends.  Seek your own investment resources and know that fraud comes more times than not from someone close to you.  If you do business with strangers, then you will be more careful about who you select and how you select.  The solution is simple.

SUMMARY:

Avoiding fraud is easy if you follow three simple steps:

  1. If it sounds too good to be true – it likely is and you may be on your first step into the PIT.
  2. If you don’t understand the investment then don’t put your money there.  How many people today would have preferred a boring but safe investment vs. taking the beating (we’ve all taken) in the market collapse of ’08/’09?
  3. Don’t invest with people you know.  If you do, expect to lose all your investment.  If that is comfortable then invest with friends.  Otherwise, follow this rule and you’d dramatically improve your odds at avoiding fraud.

Feel like you’ve been scammed…then make a comment.  Perhaps your comments will help others!


Madoff Ponzi Scheme – Fraud Prevention Expert Chuck Gallagher Comments – Stay Out of the PIT

December 19, 2008

Splashed all over the media in every form one can imagine is the news of the massive Ponzi scheme that Bernard Madoff was able to perpetrate over the scope of decades.  A staggering $50 billion is being reported and the numbers seem to always rise as first estimates (for some reason) seem to be conservative.  Perhaps it’s just we don’t want to believe it can be that bad!

madoff

From the Wall Street Journal to Bloomberg to Time – all are reporting about what happen and now asking how?  Of course, it is becoming a field day for lawyers (trying to protect their client’s interests) as well as politicians (attempting to fix lax regulatory blame).  And the reporters – well they have questions (as they should).

How could it have happened?  How could we have known?  And, most importantly – how could it have been prevented?

Those are all good questions.  But the best question is – how best to find the answer?

In order to unravel this massive financial and legal mess one needs to understand the components and pattern of fraud in order to prevent it in the future.

Fraud consists of three primary components: (1) Need; (2) Opportunity and (3) Rationalization.  All three must exist for a fraud of this magnitude to take place, live and grow over time.   Without doubt…all three existed with Madoff.  The trouble is we may not know the exact details of “why” for some time to come – if ever.

However, the most important of the three is the OPPORTUNITY SEGMENT.  Without “opportunity” the three legged stool wouldn’t support the weight of the fraud or crime.  That’s where falling into the PIT comes in. Of course, the question is – what is the PIT and what does it stand for?

The OPPORTUNITY segment of the fraud goes like this:  The fraudster (Madoff) makes a PROMISE (P) to an unsuspecting investor, creating an ILLUSION (I) – generally something the investor truly desires – which is supported by TRUST (T) – most of the time something the fraudster already has with the unsuspecting investor.  That is the “PIT” and once one falls in it, it becomes easier for others to join.  In Madoff’s case the PIT had become so large that the slippery slope in was easy and the company impressive.  My guess is that folks wanted in.

O.K. – great, so there’s a PIT.  But the real question is how to avoid the trap?

I must say that there is no shortage of people from all walks of life who are easily, quickly and willing to call Madoff all manner of names and express outrage.  The fact is – getting caught in the PIT is easy and simple.  Avoidiance is unnatural for most. Think about it, most frauds take place with people you know and/or trust.  Trust is the key factor.  So how does one avoid the PIT?

Simple Avoidance Steps:

(1) Understand – especially in a down economy when temptation for financial performance is on the rise – anything this is proposed which seems too good to be true – isn’t.

(2) Know what you’re investing in.  If you don’t understand the investment or it is an area that is foreign (in other words you could easily be manipulated) avoid the investment.

(3) Check out the investment through reliable means.  In other words approach the investment with a healthy skepticism.  Trust no one completely and due your due diligence.

Fraudsters abuse the trust others have in them in order to effect their fraud.  I did and so did Madoff.


For more information about my programs and consulting on business ethics and fraud prevention, contact me at www.chuckgallagher.com or call me at 828.244.1400.  My commitment to my clients: To evaluate and identify areas for fraud and help weed them out.  Fraud can be prevented!