Anatomy of a Scam: Chapter Seven

Print This Post

You may also like...

20 Responses

  1. TJIC says:

    Utterly awesome.

    I dare say that Bell's long term profit on the invoice that he sent you is going to be somewhat less than $140.

    …perhaps even negative.

  2. Clark says:


  3. Josh says:

    A really excellent series, thank you. The only mystery remaining is why, given the names of the parties and their apparent preference for creating confusion between their own companies and established telecoms companies, they have not tried to do business as 'Bell Labs' or some such.

  4. doug says:


  5. McGroarty says:

    Huge love for this:

    I dare say that Bell’s long term profit on the invoice that he sent you is going to be somewhat less than $140.

    This series of posts has been thrilling. Given that these guys operate by sending out tens of thousands of scam invoices, even if only a few people learn from Ken's approach, there's a much better chance that the next scammer's going to hit someone who Ken's taught to fight back.

  6. Ken says:

    For what it is worth, I've been carefully monitoring search terms used to visit this series. There are some that I suspect come from the scammers or their confederates. There are some from people who read one chapter and wanted to find their way back.

    But there are many searches from people who appear to be evaluating invoices they have received. And they come from all over the state — law firms, small businesses of all sorts, even a church.

    They also come from out of state, but I'm not yet sure of the significance of that.

    If anyone is reading this who received an invoice, please leave a comment or drop a line at ken at popehat dot com so we can triangulate. It would be useful to know, for instance, whether UST Development, Inc. has continued to send out the solicitations even after being informed they violate federal law. If they have, that would be highly probative of fraudulent intent.

  7. Meghan says:

    Ken, you deserve a medal for all this.

  8. Ken says:

    Bah. A juicy potential lead from a Google search picked up by Woopra, and no time to follow it.

  9. A says:

    20+ years ago I met, befriended & partnered with a guy like Bell. I was young(er) & naive and initially I though that the older gentleman was a persuasive, savvy, resourceful businessman with some innocent Vegas connections.
    I was broke at the time, and eventually moved into his house in Fountain Valley, where I lived rent-free in a room for about 6 months. It did not take long to realize where this guy came from and how he was operating.
    It was also amazing: We would sit over the breakfast table, and he would go over his scribbled notes and say 'I need to generate $8,400 today', or $20K, or a thousand, or whatever. And every night he would come back with the piles of cash he needed & then some.
    He had no 'job', but there were always cars parked in the driveway, or boats, big framed paintings, stamp collections, golf clubs, pink slips, deeds for various properties, coupon books & other crazy enterprises.
    He was a skilled gambler, so quite a few times, I would drive with him to the Commerce Club or fly to Vegas, and watch him play high-stakes poker. Often he won big, sometimes he lost big.
    Eventually, I realized that there was a string of people, some of his acquaintances, some strangers, some ex-friends, who would knock on the door at all hours of the day & night, looking for him, asking about their money. I was the guy who answered the door, and told them that he's not home.
    He had good stories, some of which I found out later were true. He used to be the owner of a smaller hotel chain that went public years ago. He was a VP at the Sands years ago. He owned car dealerships. He was a master salesman. His friends were drug dealers. I also discovered later a long rap sheet that started in 1964 in Michigan.
    It was extremely interesting. But it came to end when an old relative that I had died, and left me all her money. With this guy's help, we drove to her bank in Beverly Hills and cashed ~ $119,000 from her account (I was the legitimate beneficiary and took care of her during her many last years).
    Because I really did not understand the dynamics of the scam, I gave my 'friend' all money to invest, and 30 days later it was gone.
    For 2 years after that I tried unsuccessfully to get it back.
    Eventually, I found out that they guy who is probably in his 70's today, returned to prison a few times.

    It was a learning experience.

    – – – –

    On another matter, you should probably be a bit careful. When you rattle their cage too much, the bad guys may one day find it in their heart to go after you, torch your truck in the driveway, or who knows what else.

  10. Ken says:

    On another matter, you should probably be a bit careful. When you rattle their cage too much, the bad guys may one day find it in their heart to go after you, torch your truck in the driveway, or who knows what else.

    Scammers are rarely violent.

    But . . . I love, and use, the First Amendment. But I am also prepared to exercise my rights under all other applicable amendments in defense of my self, home, or family.

  11. Chris says:

    This series is wonderful. I dealt with a fraudulent vendor earlier this year, and it's so frustrating to hear their excuses and lies over and over again.

    I managed to cause enough commotion to eventually get my money back from her (though not the money I lost throughout the process while I waited for her to perform services she never did), but it took months. And I had to create an entire blog site devoted to her scam before she refunded a penny (and of course, the second she sent the refund, she wanted the site down).

    Thank you for chasing down one of these scammers, and for exposing all of us to best practices for the future.

  12. A says:

    Trudat ^, Ken.

    My google-fu's are very good too. I often find lots of shit on the web, that stumps folks in my circles. But I want to add here that your professional 'investigative reporting', Ken, is excellent.

    You should really plan of framing & re-packaging this story, when concluded. This will pose a natural proposal for a best-selling book, series, TV-program or who know what else. The media flies will start buzzing around you soon, if they haven't started already. They eat that shit. And you will deserve it.

  13. John Berry says:

    Thanks for all of the work you are doing in all of this. As I read this I realize how different normal people are from scammers. I cannot imagine having the b***s to lie to so many people about so many things. And to defy courts on top of it, I shudder. I recently got my second speeding ticket in my life (the first was 25 years ago). Going to court to fight it (I won) was traumatic beyond words. Maybe at 53 I grew up in another era. I wore a suit and tie and was amazed at the people in shorts and flip-flops presenting their causes. A few told convoluted and contradictory stories that left me aghast. Maybe scammers in training.

  14. Scott Jacobs says:

    No, John… Just idiots…

  15. Rob says:

    So put it all together at some point and how long in the slammer could someone expect with this sort of track record if after due process they are convicted in rlation to the recent matters and their complete history becomes admissable? At what point in this kind of situation does specific deterrence become a prime consideration for a sentencing judge? Hypothetically only of course. Scammers are almost the worst recidivists in my experience but dont seem to attract the opprobium or longer sentences that for example attach to those with multiple drug offences, but i'd personally trust a druggie to reform more than a scammer. Just interested in US experince there.

  16. A request: given that you have detailed here what appears to be at least prima facie evidence of a long criminal background, can you please in a future post address what relevance the investigators and authorities you suggested be contacted would find in this?

    I see where you've noted some specific cases of background being relevant (for example, in bankruptcy hearings) but I'm curious about the bigger picture. To wit, is there anyone who cares about "hey this isn't some random small-timer but what we might think of as a career criminal?"

  17. Ken says:

    That would be a potentially deadly dull case, Allan, but I will think about it.

  18. Jenn says:

    You, sir, are my hero.

    I have to ask thoug – a couple of chapters ago I saw in a document you quoted that the messers Bell had obtained more than 1 million dollars (1.7? 1.5?) … What is this?

    And if these two idiots are seriously scamming to the tune of 1.7 million dollars – how is this not national news? You should consider offering this story to the nationals. They might be able to access things you can't and the public eye on it will hopefully end their run and maybe even scare other like them to back off.

  19. Ignatius says:

    I followed this thread since the beginning and it has turned out be very timely. Just got a "collection notice" from NCO Financial Systems regarding something that looks like it could be a real forgotten bill, but isn't. A quick google check showed that this company is exactly like UST. Thanks for fortifying me for the oncoming battle!

  20. Ed says:

    Still looking for someone in Alameda County to look up the court case you referenced in this blog post?

    It may take some weeks before I'm able to get down to the courthouse, and I'm a legal newbie so you'd have to provide add'l instructions (if needed) but am happy to give it a go if helpful.

    If you end up getting the info needed from elsewhere, I only ask that you mention it in a subsequent blog post so I know it's no longer necessary.

    Am enjoying reading about your anti-con work (and am not in any way connected to this except having a generally shared desire for justice).

    Take care and good luck!