Browsing: Fraud


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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]

dbag2.jpgSee previous entry: “Marcus Schrenker’s Fake-Out.”

Marcus Schrenker may have been a bad money manager, but so far, he’s pretty good at being a fugitive. And he is officially a fugitive now. Felony charges have been filed against Schrenker by Indiana authorities — he has been charged with “unlawful acts by a compensated adviser and unlawful transaction by an investment adviser.”

Basically, investigators in Hamilton County, IN think Marcus Schrenker used his firms, Heritage Wealth Management, Heritage Insuarance and Icon Wealth Management to defraud investors. No one is calling this a Ponzi scheme per se, but hey — there’s still time.

Schrenker’s getaway was also more well-planned than it seemed at first. Police in Alabama have determined that after the D.B. Cooper imitator vanished (again) from a South Alabama motel, he went to a storage unit where he’d secreted a motorcycle, took the bike and hit the road.

At this writing, he’s still in the wind — on the run from lawsuits, a pending divorce, and now these criminal charges.

I’d say chances are good that Schrenker is still in the South, and for all we know still using the pseudonym he trotted out when he checked into the Harpersville, Alabama motel from which he quickly fled: Jason Galoozis. I linked Schrenker to the Galoozis name in the previous entry, though I’m still not 100% sure of the relationship. The Galoozis in the obit wasn’t Schrenker’s father after all, but there was clearly some connection there.

In the “for what it’s worth” dept. — if you haven’t checked out Schrenker’s Heritage Wealth website as it appeared in 2005, you’re missing out a bit on some insight into the guy and just how slick he really was. Go there, click the “Who we are” link and then at the bottom, click Schrenker’s name. This will cue a video of a smooth-talking Schrenker vaguely explaining his company and how they care for their clients, yadayada. I haven’t figured out how to pull down the video yet, or I’d just post it here. [CNN]


Marc Schrenker’s homemade video of a stunt flight he made in the Bahamas. The soundtrack has been removed.

The pilot said there was severe turbulence. He in great distress and bleeding; his windshield had shattered. After that tragic report to a control tower in Atlanta, the pilot’s Piper Malibu slammed into a swamp outside Milton, Florida.

A short time later, Marc Schrenker, age 38, approached a cop in Childersburg, Alabama and said he’d had a canoeing accident. Schrenker wasn’t hurt, but he was wet from the knees down. The cop didn’t know about the plane crash. He took Schrenker to a hotel in Harpersville, Alabama. Schrenker signed in with a fake name, paid in cash and checked into his room.

Childersburg police quickly learned about the plane crash and they came back to the hotel. Schrenker was gone. He’d pulled on a black toboggan and vanished again, possibly into the woods.

Marcus “Marc” Schrenker had been in the pilot’s seat of the crashed Piper Malibu. He’d tried to pull a fake-out of some sort, with his claims of disaster in the air. The Fishers, Indiana-based money manager apparently had reasons for wanting others to think he was dead.

According to a filing made in Federal Court on December 22, 2008, Marcus Schrenker, the head of Heritage Wealth Management, Inc. was the defendant in a suit made by Creative Marketing International for breach of contract. Schrenker was also named in papers related to Delta Airline’s bankruptcy filing. Schrenker had done work analyzing post-retirement income possibilities for retiring Delta pilots. The filing stated that “review of the analysis described in the Schrenker Declaration shows that it contains multiple seriously flawed assumptions that decimate its validity.” (You can read and try to make sense of that document here. It’s a PDF.)

On top of all this, after this blog entry was first published, a sharp-eyed reader spotted what appears to be an obituary for Schrenker’s father.

So Marc Schrenker was, shall we say, in a rather bad place.

At this writing (and I will update this post if needed), Marc Schrenker may still be missing in the Alabama woods. Is he yet another example of the current economic crisis in action as a slippery money manager, no longer able to float (or support his love of awesome stunt planes), freaks out? Others have been committing suicide; Schrenker seems to at least be a little more creative.

While we try to find out a little more about this latter-day, sorta D.B. Cooper-like dude, go check out the website for Schrenker’s Indianapolis firm, Heritage Wealth Management. It may be more educational to look at the site as it appeared in 2005, when there was a video of a very smooth Schrenker talking about what his company did for its clients. He once apparently thought about starting something involving “Money Management for Pilots,” but it looks like he wasn’t too good at that sort of thing, after all.

Another link, via DealBreaker.com: Schrenker and his wife Michelle once filed a suit against the Hamilton County, Indiana Sheriff’s Office for false arrest and unreasonable force [PDF]. Schrenker had been accused of riding a motorcycle illegally, and things went downhill from there. 

[WKRG.com, Fox News/AP; thanks to reader Kim for some of the links.]

UPDATE

WKRG in Alabama is reporting that Schrenker is in police custody. So far, they seem to be the only media outlet making this claim. (After I posted this update, WKRG backpedaled, saying that police couldn’t confirm Schrenker’s capture.)

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