Friday, April 20, 2012

1008 Abie Finally Got Caught

1008 Abie Finally Got Caught

You have to be careful who you scam and for how much.  Abie Goldberg’s doing soft time at Club Fed for not following his own advice.

“Look,” he used to say... “what I have for you is a Ponzi scheme.  But you should know, I don’t scam little kids or the charities that support them.”  Nor did he scam big corporations with independent auditors, nursing homes, politicians, scout troops, little old ladies on Social Security or known mobsters.

“Yeah, it’s a Ponzi scheme, plain and simple.  But low key.  And you can get out early.”

When guys like Madoff were offering ten, 12, 14%, Abie would offer 5.8 or 6.2.  “Still a good return, but not wild enough to scream ‘scheme.’”  Plus he’d offer an early warning system at no extra cost.  When things started looking shaky, he’d let his suckers know... also low key.

Why oddball percentage returns?  “Because it looks legit.  It looks like a carefully calculated rate from a broker.  The big fish?  They’d offer round numbers which are suspicious to start, and the numbers were so high only an idiot or another crook would put money into their funds.”

So Abie Scheme 101:  Pay well, but not outrageously well.  Use complicated looking figures.  Don’t take huge money.  Don’t take from sympathy magnets.

Guy rolled along like that for 15 years, maybe more.  No one batted an eye.  There were times it looked like it could go on forever.  The customer pool was pretty big.

Then, a while ago -- this was before Madoff got caught -- he posts some losses.  That’s the secret handshake that was supposed to tell investors to get out.  Unfortunately, too many did, even though the notices always were accompanied by a tearful, soulful letter of apology to his customers and predictions of a sunny future.

“I could have fled to Sudan or Laos because they don’t have extradition from there.  But I’m 85, I hate the hot weather and your life in places like that isn’t worth a nickel.”

“So some schmuck files a complaint and all of a sudden I’m Mr. Popularity with the IRS, the Treasury Department and the FBI.  Maybe I should have paid three percent...”  And they did what no one else bothered to do before, they looked at the books.  Carefully.

So Abie is doing his time at the low security Federal Correctional Institution near Miami.  “Not too bad here, but I hear the heat’s murder in July and August.”

Plus, he’s in there lining up future customers from among his fellow well-heeled inmates.

Shrapnel (water edition):  

--You can help your dentist maintain a decent income by drinking more bottled water.  The rate of tooth decay, falling for 60 years, recently has  skyrocketed as people avoid fluoridated tap water.  So the choice is kill the environment with all those plastic bottles or kill your teeth with them.

--At least one major water bottler has added fluoride to some of its products.  What’s the point? At least they mark the bottles clearly and in big, colorful type.   Which doesn’t help if you don’t read the label.

--Around here, a close relative avoids the tap water because of its heavy concentration of calcium.  And then, she takes Citracal and Fosamax.  She’s getting soaked without getting wet.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2012

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