Browsing: Fraud


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Elouise James accused of even ripping off her 90-year-old mom

​The next time Clemson, South Carolina city Councilwoman Elouise James wants to get her daughter out of legal trouble, she might consider something other than the Ye Olde Fake Cancer Scam. You know, something a little less verifiable.

Instead of letting her daughter woman-up to the unspecified charges, James is accused of forging papers from the Cancer Centers of the Carolinas to claim she had cancer and thus avoid prosecution. Using the pretext of the same scam, police also say she raised at least two grand to pay for her daughter’s chemotherapy and restitution. And to top it all off, she supposedly used her power-of-attorney to get a reverse mortgage on her 90-year-old mother’s home, using it to pay off $15,000 in restitution and probation fees her daughter owed.

James claims she’s innocent. And official Clemson seems to be solidly behind her. According to the Greenville News, Mayor Larry Abernathy says James
is “an exemplary public servant” and “a real asset to the community.” But when you run something as naked as a fake cancer scheme, James may soon find her own assets in the sling.


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Megan Laboy

​It was a sweet scheme — if you take out the part about how easy it would be to get caught.

Colts Neck, New Jersey social studies teacher Megan Laboy allegedly offered to give her students better grades if they’d just kick her a little money — say, $1,400 in all. The loot, she claimed, would go to charity, and the kids would get extra credit.

But according to police, the money was instead going to the charity case known as Megan Laboy. And kids being kids, they didn’t exactly keep the whole deal quiet. Though details are sparse, it appears Laboy has now been fired. She also faces a charge of theft by deception.

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Saul Kassin, one of the rabbis nabbed in New York

​While this case isn’t as weird as the recent case involving money laundering rabbis in New York and New Jersey, there does seem to be a small problem with corruption in the rabbinical ranks.

Last week, police in Cleveland took down a massive mortgage fraud ring that involved 41 people, 453 homes and $44 million in fraudulent loans. It may well be the largest mortgage fraud case in U.S. history. But while this tends to be a common crime in Cleveland — the city long led the league in mortgage schemes before they became fashionable on the coasts — it was the way alleged ringleader Uri Gofman secreted away his money that raises attention.

Prosecutors contend Gofman’s scam took in a sweet $31 million in profits. And that money was apparently deposited in European banks by a Ukrainian rabbi, who would fly in and out of Cleveland on the same day carrying large piles of loot. In related news, it is not believed that the rabbi is currently upholding any vow of poverty.


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Sheriff Danny Presgraves, sexual harasser extraordinaire

​Longtime Page County, Virginia Sheriff Daniel Presgraves has pleaded guilty to racketeering. But based on his original indictment, which carried maximum penalties of 300 years in a federal slam, he probably got off easy. The evidence against him seemed overwhelming.

It began with a tip that Presgraves was taking kickbacks from a cockfighting ring. Under the agreement, the sheriff wouldn’t arrest the ringleaders and would tip them off if another law enforcement agency was planning a raid.

The sheriff was also accused of doing the same thing for an unnamed company facing legal problems. According to the feds, Presgraves deposited more than $100,000 in cash in his checking account from 2001 until 2004.

Prosecutors further accused the sheriff of ripping off his own department. They say he withheld depositing a $39,000 payment from the U.S. Customs Service, and $47,000 from the company operating pay phones in the Page County Jail. And this was just the beginning of his crimes…


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Irina Malezhik has been missing since 2007

​On October 15, 2007, Irina Malezhik emerged from her Brooklyn apartment building. The Ukrainian immigrant, who translated Russian in New York courts, hasn’t been seen since.

That same day, $6,475 in forged checks from her account were deposited by Dmitriy and Julia Yakovlev of Coney Island. According to police, the couple also got a credit card in Malezhik’s name, using it to burn through $37,000 in ATM withdrawals and going on a shopping spree for jewelry and clothes. The couple was charged with identity theft.

Since Malezhik worked on Russian Mafia cases, the FBI joined the investigation. Agents naturally assumed the Yakovlevs were involved in her disappearance. So earlier this month, the FBI and the NYPD conducted a week-long dig in the couple’s basement, searching for Malezhik’s body. They found no trace of the woman, but they did leave gaping cracks in the home’s ceilings and walls, claim the Yakovlevs. The couple now plans to sue the agencies for restitution.


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John Gotti not long before his death

​Popular opinion says the Mafia is no more — or at least not what it was in its heyday. That theory says it’s been reduced to a collection of informants, poseurs, and expired HBO shows. But the New York Daily News makes an argument that it’s alive and well, reincarnated for a changing economy.

Though the mob has lost juice in its traditional fields of union racketeering, construction and garbage, it’s making up for that by basically following the criminality of Wall Street. The paper points to scams involving hedge funds, mortgage securities, and house-flipping. Mobsters are also heavy players on the web, running porn and off-shore gambling sites, not to mention swiping credit card numbers.

One member of the Gambino Family even owns an energy drink company called American Blast, presumably used to launder money.

The difference with today’s mob is that it’s not composed of preening sociopaths like John Gotti Era. These days, it’s less violent, more quiet, and quicker to commit mortgage fraud than hijack a truck.

A handy video from the SLCPD about grifter Kari Ferrell.

I blog about non-crime subjects for a new site called ASSME.org. Today I posted a brief entry there about a wanted, alleged con woman from Utah, one Kari Ferrell, age 22.

Essentially, Ferrell talked her way into employment (very briefly) at Vice Magazine. She was pierced, tattooed, asian, elfin, forward, funky, funny – in other words, catnip for a certain breed of New York-centric media person, especially folks who are also in their 20s, like Ferrell herself. Then someone at Vice googled her and decided she wasn’t such a good hire after all. They most likely got this

She’s been a very bad girl – $60,000 worth of bad – but at first, I didn’t think Ferrell merited a post here. Why? For one thing, the New York media/gossip blog juggernaut Gawker has gone absolutely stark raving nuts over Ferrell’s story. They have both a Kari Ferrell tag and a Hipster Grifter tag, to name a few related to this tale of tats and bounced checks. That’s a lot of comprehensive coverage by a very popular site. I couldn’t figure out what to add to that. 

I also felt that journalist Doree Shafrir did an outstanding job detailing Ferrell’s story for the Observer. You can read that here.

The big deal of the day today for Gawker and then the post that I created for ASSME was Kari Ferrell’s MySpace profile (there’s some incredibly gross and offensive art on the profile – click at your peril) which was just about the only bit of Hipster Grifter-related online arcana no one had published yet.

Over the weird art, the self-consciously eccentric statements, a brief statement that Kari Ferrell repeated several times on her MySpace profile leaped out at me: “I have every single interest you have. I am your carbon copy.”

If there were a handbook for grifters, that statement would be the boldface epigraph on one of the first pages.

It said everything about her. Kari Ferrell was stating, whether she meant to or not, that she would mold herself to be whatever you wanted. She was saying there really isn’t a Kari. There’s the Kari you want to see, no matter who you are. That might sound kind of awesome if you haven’t been around the bend yet, but it’s actually scary as hell – because Kari was plainly telling anyone astute enough to notice just how grifters slide in under their marks’ radars. Grifters are often sociopaths, and that means they often don’t have much of a real personality all their own. They prey on others for everything. Their lives are predatory, or perhaps in Kari’s case, parasitic.

Most people who knew Kari Ferrell prior to her bizarre celebrity (thanks to Gawker, really) were probably blindsided by any scams she ran on them. But ironically, I really think a big clue was on her MySpace page the entire time. Most people just don’t want to or don’t know how to notice such a thing. I’m not sure I would, in their shoes. At least not right away. And when I was in my 20s, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought.

If you’re in NYC, keep an eye out for Kari Ferrell. It’s hard to miss that tattoo. Otherwise, she’ll just keep preying on others.

And remember – if anyone close to you ever makes a statement remotely similar to “I have every single interest you have. I am your carbon copy,” you should immediately become very suspicious. Unless that person is, like, your identical twin or something. Or clone. Even then, I’d probably be wary.

The Salt Lake City Police have a nice jumpsuit waiting for the Hipster Grifter. Tell them if you know anything about her whereabouts: (801) 799-3000.


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Alleged Replogle conspirator Kaushal Niroula

SF Weekly‘s “The Snitch” is covering the whacked-out story of Attorney David Replogle, 3 alleged accomplices, and their alleged schemes to bilk older, wealthy men out of money and property. The supposed schemes concocted by Replogle & company would be amusing were it not for a decidedly dark turn in the plot that took place in December of 2008. From “The Snitch”:

Cliff Lambert, 74, was reported missing Dec. 7 after a friend failed to reach him. On Dec. 11 his Palm Springs home was fraudulently sold for less than $300,000, according to police accounts and real estate records. Lambert’s house was also looted of artwork and other valuables, police said. A court has subsequently halted the home’s sale, police said.

Madcap details in the case suggested that a group of long-time artless, yet lucky con men may have finally met their due in Palm Springs. After one of the suspects forged documents to facilitate the sale of Lambert’s house, he realized that a thumb-print taken by a San Francisco notary public might be used by police. So he returned to the notary’s office and unsuccessfully attempted to steal the notary’s copy, police said…

Read the rest of the post at “The Snitch” for further details of this bizarre and disturbing story. The post is just one in a series of pieces tracking this crew’s alleged shenanigans.

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The story broke right around inauguration time: a middle-aged white woman was on her way to Washington DC to witness the swearing-in of the 44th president when racist miscreants torched her home — most likely because she supported the President. At least that was what she wanted folks to believe. Well… Pamela Graf’s story has come apart at the seams. From WSB Radio:

Captain Jason Shivers tells WSB’s Jennifer Griffies 47-year-old Pamela Graf was arrested on unrelated charges, but is listed as a suspect in the fire. 

“Ms. Graf was arrested on unrelated drug charges due to the execution of a search warrant during the investigation of the Lanier Drive fire,” said Shivers.

Marijuana and cocaine were found during a search of motel room and car.

Graf’s 46-year-old boyfriend Steve Strobel was also arrested. Strobel is suspected of taking part in the alleged arson as well.

All that’s missing from this story is a backwards “B”.

The U.S. Marshals report that Marc Schrenker has been found alive in Quincy, Florida. The fugitive money manager was found with his wrists slit at a campsite in Quincy. He may have attempted suicide — but you know, I kinda doubt he totally meant it. Speaking to CNN, the Marshals could not say for sure whether they had Schrenker or not. Whoever they have in custody, he’s been taken to a hospital in Tallahassee. [NWFDailyNews.com]

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