Category Archives: fraud

Grand Ole Ratfuckers

Welcome Crooks & Liars! Thanks, Mike!

The Republican Party is so unpopular with the rank and file, they’ve actually resorted to fraud and deception to solicit donations for their sucky candidates:

Republicans are defending a series of websites they established that appear to support Democratic candidates for Congress, but instead direct contributions to the GOP.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) said its websites were not confusing, and accused Democrats of crying foul because their candidates were struggling.

The sites, like this one for Arizona Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, feature a “Kyrsten Sinema for Congress” banner, and a picture of the first-term congresswoman from a competitive Maricopa County district.

The sites also display a clear, but smaller secondary banner, urging contributions to “help defeat” (in this case) Sinema. At the bottom of the page, it features an NRCC disclaimer.

Let’s take a look at this donation page, shall we?


This is pathetic. So if you’re in a hurry, and just briefly glance over the page, you see a picture of the Democratic candidate and what appears to be her donation options. You may see the word “defeat” but more likely it doesn’t register. You’re in a rush and skim over that stuff as you search for your credit card and focus on the actual donation options. Only after you complete the transaction do you realize you’ve been pwned, sucka!

Trying to figure out who this works for. Surely the people who got ripped off have an even lower estimation of the Republican Party, right? Certainly if I were a candidate who was being used to defraud voters, I’d speak up about it.

Even the URLs appear to be links to Democratic candidates. Check out the sad tale of a Floridian who tried to donate to Democrat Alex Sink’s campaign:

Ray Bellamy said he wanted to make a political contribution to Alex Sink a Google search landed him at “”

“It looked legitimate and had a smiling face of Sink and all the trappings of a legitimate site,” Bellamy, a doctor from Tallahassee who follows Florida politics, wrote in an email to the Buzz. (Here’s Sink’s actual site, which uses a similar color scheme.)

What Bellamy overlooked was that the site is designed to raise money against Sink. “I failed to notice the smaller print: Under “Alex Sink Congress” was the sentence ‘Make a contribution today to help defeat Alex Sink and candidates like her,’ ” he said.

As with the Kyrsten Sinema campaign, the Republicans are using confusion and deception to try to steal donations which don’t belong to them. They’re counting on the fact that donors are busy, and will trust a quickie Google search to land them in the right place (also: hello, Google? Why is a fake Alex Sink campaign site ranked higher than the real one? UPDATE: Google has since put a phising warning on the website.) Even worse, in the case of Ray Bellamy’s errant donation, the NRCC wouldn’t refund his donation — until he went to the news media.

How is this not a violation of campaign finance rules? Or have we effectively done away with those?

Republicans are horrible people. Trying to steal elections, using fraud to steal donations — can’t you guys do anything honestly for once in your lives?

(h/t, Juanita Jean)


Filed under campaign finance, fraud, Republican National Committee, Republican Party

Horrible Pilot Flying J People Plead Guilty

Remember Pilot Flying J regional sales director Arnold Ralenkotter, joking about ripping off “a fuckin’ Russian mafia guy” in Illinois named “Pav”, whom he referred to as a “dumbass”?

Yeah. He pleaded guilty to ripping off the trucking company’s customers. Also pleading guilty: Ashley Judd. No, not that one.

I’m guessing there’s going to be some sweet singing by these two — especially Ralenkotter, who might want to avoid running into Pav’s friends and associates in prison.

I think it defies credibility that Jimmy Haslam didn’t know about this scheme, especially seeing as how the fraud was openly discussed at meetings where Haslam was present. But even if Haslam slithers away, the company is facing a rash of lawsuits.

So, again: do we have any bets on what new name the Haslam family will dream up to rebrand the family business? I’m thinking “Patriot Family Red White And Blue Freedom Oil Of America.”

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Filed under Bill Haslam, corporations, fraud, Tennessee

Why Didn’t I Think Of This

Now I’ve heard everything:

A security check on a US company has reportedly revealed one of its staff was outsourcing his work to China.

The software developer, in his 40s, is thought to have spent his workdays surfing the web, watching cat videos on YouTube and browsing Reddit and eBay.

He reportedly paid just a fifth of his six-figure salary to a company based in Shenyang to do his job.

Operator Verizon says the scam came to light after the US firm asked it for an audit, suspecting a security breach.

Brilliant. Outsource yourself, beat Verizon to the punch.

The story goes on to say that the employee apparently ran his little scam with several companies, not just Verizon. So, it appears the guy was an independent contractor. You know what could have prevented this fraud? Hiring an actual employee. Ah, well. Live and learn.


Filed under fraud, outsourcing

Den Of Robbers

It’s the oldest story in the book: the creepy televangelists who enjoy a life of indulgence while fleecing the faithful. Ah, greed masked by religious piety! Even Jesus walked among such con artists, and he was not amused:

“It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.'” — Matthew 21:13

Today’s New York Times has an expose on the latest Christian charlatans, the obscenely wealthy Crouch family. You’ve probably seen them while flipping through the channels late at night: the perennially weepy Janice Crouch with her cotton-candy pink hair and Paul Crouch, who alway set my creep-o-meter into overdrive. Paul and Janice Crouch sit at the helm of Trinity Broadcasting Network, a global religious empire that might even rival Pat Robertson’s. They own the former Twitty City here Middle Tennessee and The Holy Land Experience Bible theme park in Orlando. The Crouches are the poster children for wringing all meaning and sincerity from Scripture, packaging this empty religion in a neat little box, and selling it like a bag of potato chips.

The Crouch family story is unfolding in the expected way, with family infighting, lawsuits, allegations of impropriety and fraud. What makes this story so juicy is that the person spilling the beans is the Crouch’s granddaughter Brittany Koper, who was TBN’s finance director. In return, the Crouches accuse Koper of embezzlement. Ain’t no feud like a family feud ‘cuz a family feud won’t quit, amiright?

Do head over to the Times to read this story. It needs to be turned into a Hollywood movie except I bet some critics would carp it’s too cliche. His-and-hers-mansions in California and Florida? A $49 million corporate jet? Nobody would believe such excess! Oh, but it gets better:

In 2008 and 2009, as Mrs. Crouch began remodeling Holy Land Experience, she rented adjacent rooms in the deluxe Loews Portofino Bay Hotel in Orlando — one for herself and one for her two beloved Maltese dogs and clothes, according to Mr. Clements and Ms. Koper. Mrs. Crouch rented the rooms for close to two years, they said.

Anyone who tries to buy a ticket to heaven by giving these people their money is an idiot. This is perhaps the only time you will see me agree with the arch-conservative Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:

“TBN has been a huge embarrassment to evangelical Christianity for decades.”

And I loved this part:

“Others may do things differently, and may criticize TBN for how it operates, its look, its doctrine and belief,” Mr. May said. “But what is absolutely clear is that TBN, with God’s grace, has succeeded where most others have failed.”

Really? I guess that depends on what your definition of “success” is.

These things are hard to predict but I expect this story will end much as they all do: with someone going to jail.


Filed under Christianity, fraud


>If you have a few minutes today, you absolutely must read Ken Whitehouse’s story on fraudster/Ponzi schemer/aspiring Tennessee Republican politician Jeff Cassman. Cassman’s fraud is considered “small potatoes” compared to, say, Bernie Madoff: he defrauded far fewer people and took much less money. But his victims were not nameless, faceless people. They were his friends and family, members of his church congregation and the like. In short: the people who trusted him the most. There surely has to be a special place in hell for people who will abuse someone’s trust this way.

The article is called Banana Republican because as the law began closing in on Cassman and his web of lies (including the fib that he holds a Master’s in Theology from a Connecticut seminary), he and his family of 10 children skedaddled to Antigua, Guatemala. There Cassman lived under various assumed names and set up shop seeking out investors for his various schemes.

Guatemalan authorities arrested Cassman in October and he was brought home to face the music. He’s since pled guilty and now awaits sentencing. It’s an absolutely unbelievable story, in part because I don’t remember a ton of coverage in the local media about the case and also because it’s an absolute freaking miracle the guy was apprehended to begin with.

Writes Whitehouse:

How could a family that large disappear? The answer is simple: It’s easy to hide when no one is looking for you.

In 2008, when the Cassman family went missing, there was only one federal agent on the case. It wasn’t an agent from the FBI, SEC or treasury department. It was a member of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and he was about to be transferred out of the region. Over the past few years, postal agents have been integral parts of the teams that apprehended Ponzi schemers like Park, Grigg and Stokes, to name a few.

Well, good on the U.S. Postal Service! I can’t believe this snake almost slithered away.

The guy is obviously a sociopath. And while he ran for Tennessee’s State House, twice, as a “family values” conservative, his actions show him to be anything but. Above and beyond the illegal activity, look how he treated his family while they were in Guatemala:

While Cassman was cataloguing his adventures online, his wife and kids were living in a squalid home where the children slept on tile floors. In 2009, his wife gave birth to their 10th child (she is currently expecting their 11th). In a letter to his in-laws, which they shared with The City Paper, Cassman’s children wrote that his then-14-year-old son delivered the baby and that Cassman couldn’t be reached because he was in church.

Cassman was actually at a bar smoking cigars, drinking and playing chess, his main activities most days. Writing about his children on “Our kids go outside only under our supervision, during the morning hours when local kids are most likely to be in school, with a guard dog we don’t feed until after play time, and we always have one person scanning the surrounding area for threats.”

While Cassman tried to put on the front that he was a devoted father, others have a different opinion. first reported in February 2010 that a friend of the family had witnessed Cassman punishing his son by pouring hot sauce down his throat after a disagreement. The person who saw that incident confirmed it to The City Paper, calling Cassman a “psychopath.”

This is a story that deserves to get some attention on 60 Minutes or Dateline NBC. Aboslutely amazing.


Filed under fraud, Nashville, Tennessee

>Profits of Doom

>Harper’s links to this ProPublia story which is worth shining some light on:

Rep. Mike Ross — a Blue Dog Democrat playing a key role in the health care debate — sold a piece of commercial property in 2007 for substantially more than a county assessment and an independent appraisal say it was worth. The buyer: an Arkansas-based pharmacy chain with a keen interest in how the debate plays out.

Ross sold the real estate in Prescott, Ark., to USA Drug for $420,000 — an eye-popping number for real estate in the tiny train-and-lumber town about 100 miles southwest of Little Rock. “You can buy half the town for $420,000,” said Adam Guthrie, chairman of the county Board of Equalization and the only licensed real estate appraiser in Prescott.

But the $420,000 was just the beginning of what Ross and his pharmacist wife, Holly, made from the sale of Holly’s Health Mart. The owner of USA Drug, Stephen L. LaFrance Sr., also paid the Rosses $500,000 to $1 million for the pharmacy’s assets and paid Holly Ross another $100,000 to $250,000 for signing a non-compete agreement. Those numbers, which Ross listed on the financial disclosure reports he files as a member of Congress, bring the total value of the transaction to between $1 million and $1.67 million.

Well, that’s certainly cozy, isn’t it? And totally predictable.

Right and left alike have been getting fat off the healthcare gravy train for years. Remember former King Pharmaceuticals CEO John Gregory pouring a river of money into Republican coffers?

(And by the way, how weird is it that two of the largest Medicare/Medicaid fraud scandals in U.S. history involve Tennessee companies? Nashville’s Columbia/HCA paid $840 million in fines and penalties for ripping off Medicare and Medicaid; Bristol, TN-based King Pharmaceuticals paid $124 million plus interest for defrauding various government agenices, including the VA. Support the troops!)

Disgusting. Frankly, I’m pissed off that we’re being told how the only thing the for-profit healthcare system needs is a little “competition” to fix its many ills. The problem is far worse than that. A neutered public option isn’t going to do jack shit to solve the healthcare crisis in this country. The problem, as this rather wonky study in “Health Affairs” makes clear, is the prices, stupid. We’re paying too much–more than any other industrialized country. We’re getting less–less than any other industrialized country. We’re being ripped off on a daily basis. Money flows out of our bank accounts and into the coffers of healthcare companies, with a little diverted off the side to buy off politicians and the national and state political parties. As the saying goes, where there’s shit, there’s always flies.

No wonder no one feels inclined to change the system. Adding some much-needed comedy to this tragedy are the farcical Tea Shouters, those deluded losers fighting to save a system that serves no one save the crooks and liars who stacked the deck against us to begin with. Feh.

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Filed under fraud, healthcare, Rep. Mike Ross

>A Different Kind Of Prostitution

>Former Attorney General John Ashcroft doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with this:

WASHINGTON — Former Attorney General John Ashcroft responded angrily on Tuesday to Congressional Democrats who suggested that a no-bid private contract awarded to him by the Justice Department last year amounted to a “backroom, sweetheart deal” that would earn his consulting firm tens of millions of dollars.

“There is not a conflict, there is not an appearance of a conflict,” Mr. Ashcroft said at a hearing of a House Judiciary subcommittee called to explore the circumstances of the contract.


Ms. Sanchez opened the hearing by suggesting that the department’s decision last year to award a monitoring contract worth between $28 million to $52 million to Mr. Ashcroft’s firm, as part of an out-of-court settlement with a medical supply company under criminal investigation, presented the appearance of a conflict, since it was made by officials who had been Mr. Ashcroft’s subordinates.

“You don’t believe that it may be a conflict of interest in a former employee hiring the former boss, or suggesting that he be hired, for a very lucrative contract?” she asked.

The 18-month monitoring contract requires Mr. Ashcroft to make sure that the Indiana company, Zimmer Holdings, complies with the terms of its settlement of kickback allegations. She described it as a “sweetheart deal” in which “Mr. Ashcroft was selected with no public notice and no bidding.”

Zimmer is one of four manufacturers of replacement hips and knees that got into trouble for making kickbacks to doctors. As part of the settlement deal, U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Chris Christie awarded his former boss this multimillion-dollar, no-bid contract. And Mr. Ashcroft is shocked, shocked, I tell you, that there is any appearance of impropriety. How dare those godless Democrats question his integrity.

Republicans in the House agreed, predictably, that Ashcroft is a swell Christian dude and no one should question anything he does now that he’s a super-honest lobbyist–“the anti-Abramaoff,” as the New York Times described in its fawning March 2006 profile.

Representative Tom Feeney, a Florida Republican, said it was “fundamentally wrong” to question the credentials of Mr. Ashcroft, who is “perhaps the most qualified individual in the country” on the sorts of issues faced by a corporate monitor in the health care industry, because of his record at the Justice Department in prosecuting large health-care companies.

Oh really? Which ones would that be? Like the Don Siegelman case, for instance?

Anyway, even though there was nothing wrong with the way the no-bid monitoring contract was awarded, the Dept. of Justice decided to make some new guidelines on the awarding of future such deals. Just because:

On Monday, the Justice Department announced internal guidelines for the selection of monitors in out-of-court settlements with large companies. The new guidelines are intended in part to avoid the sort of conflict-of-interest accusations that followed the disclosure of Mr. Ashcroft’s contract.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative John Conyers Jr., a Michigan Democrat, suggested at the hearing that the new guidelines may not go far enough, and that Congress may consider legislation to impose new rules for the selection of monitors.

“We must assure the public that the Department of Justice is not rewarding political allies in a forum where prosecutorial independence is absolutely necessary,” he said.

Well, that would be a refreshing change.

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Filed under Dept. of Justice, fraud, John Ashcrfot, Zimmer Holdings