• Rod Kackley

What Are We A Bunch of Suckers? A Shocking True Crime Story



Bernie Madoff ran a $65 billion Ponzi scheme for 27 years. It made worldwide news. Who didn't know about this con?


Yet just a few years later, Mark Cohen, a Canadian businessman convinced more suckers to dump $12 million into his pyramid scheme, by promising them returns of 13%.


Then, Cohen disappeared.


A swindler by the name of Charles Ponzi gave his name to the fleecing of investors with a pyramid scam in 1920. He promised a return of 50% within 45 days, or 100% if investors would leave their money with him for 90 days.


Suckers!


Of course, he was paying early investors with money from later investors, hence the term pyramid scheme.


But Charles Ponzi may not have been the first. It’s said a Brooklyn bookkeeper, William F. Miller, used the concept to steal $1 million from his victims, around $35 million in today’s money.


No matter who was the first, he wasn’t the last.


Why do people keep falling for Ponzi or pyramid schemes? For hundreds of years, investors have been warned, “if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.”


But still, we fall.


Why?


Greed?


Not always, according to Cendri Hutcherson, a professor of psychology and the Canada Research Chair in Decision Neuroscience at the University of Toronto.


He told MoneyWise Ponzi schemes play to another of humanity’s needs: the need for certainty.

“We know that people really hate uncertainty, and they really hate the possibility that they might lose,” Hutcherson says.


“If there's anything that's totally implausible about these schemes, it’s that they're essentially offering you a can't-lose proposition. They're saying, ‘We can guarantee you that you will be safe, that your money will be fine.’ And of course, we know from markets that it's very hard to guarantee that you'll find something consistent unless it's a very small amount of return on your money.”


And now cyber currency, is said to be giving rise to a new kind of Ponzi scammer.


The FBI has added Ruja Ignatova to its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list for her alleged leadership of a massive fraud scheme that affected millions of investors worldwide.


The FBI is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to her arrest.

In approximately 2014, Ignatova and her partner founded OneCoin, a Bulgarian-based company that was marketed as a new virtual currency that would be the “Bitcoin killer.”


Ignatova allegedly made false statements and representations about OneCoin to draw people to invest in OneCoin packages. According to investigators, Ignatova and her partner also promoted OneCoin through a multi-level marketing strategy that urged OneCoin investors to sell additional packages to friends and family.


Ignatova capitalized on the excitement surrounding cryptocurrencies to draw in new investors. While the company is said to have used many of the terms associated with virtual currencies, investigators believe that OneCoins were not mined in the way traditional to cryptocurrencies. In addition, the value of OneCoin was determined by the company rather than market demand.


“OneCoin claimed to have a private blockchain,” said Special Agent Ronald Shimko, who is investigating the case out of the FBI’s New York Field Office. “This is in contrast to other virtual currencies, which have a decentralized and public blockchain. In this case, investors were just asked to trust OneCoin.”


Throughout the scheme, OneCoin is believed to have defrauded victims all over the world out of billions. Shimko said Ignatova targeted individuals who may not have fully understood the ins and outs of cryptocurrencies but were moved by Ignatova’s impressive resume and the marketing strategies used by OneCoin.


On October 12, 2017, Ignatova was charged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and a federal warrant was issued for her arrest. Investigators believe Ignatova may have been tipped off that she was under investigation by U.S. and international authorities. She traveled from Sofia, Bulgaria, to Athens, Greece, on October 25, 2017, and has not been seen since.


On February 6, 2018, a superseding indictment was issued charging Ignatova with one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and securities fraud.

Shimko hopes that the publicity of the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list will bring more awareness to the case.


“There are so many victims all over the world who were financially devastated by this,” Shimko said. “We want to bring her to justice.”





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