Postal Inspector Clayton Gerber remarks on Stanford’s fraud victims and their inclination to trust information because it came through the mail.
Clayton Gerber: My name is Clayton Gerber. I’m a United States postal inspector. I was part of the team that investigated Robert Allen Stanford and the Stanford International Bank. I interviewed a victim in South Florida. The husband and wife were sitting together. This was about three or four weeks after Mr. Stanford’s scheme had collapsed. It was very clear the money didn’t exist. The receiver had done a significant amount of preliminary investigation. There was no money left to pay any of the victims.
The wife was clutching her statement, said to me, “It’s not possible, the money can't all be gone. It says right here in my statement that our money is here.” I said, “Ma’am, you believe your money is there because that was printed on that statement and you received it in the mail. If I printed a statement that said you have zero dollars in your account, would you believe that?” She said, “No, I wouldn’t believe that.” I said, “That amount of money listed on your statement, is just what’s printed on a piece of paper. But you believe it because you received it in the mail.” It became clear to me at that point in time why we do these investigations that we do. People trust what they get in the mail.
Postal Inspector Clayton Gerber describes the Postal Inspection Service’s investigation into Stanford’s operation
Postal Inspector Clayton Gerber describes the Postal Inspection Service’s investigation into Stanford’s operation, including the tip that lead to his arrest.
Clayton Gerber: My name is Clayton Gerber. I’m a United States postal inspector. I was part of the team that investigated Robert Allen Stanford and the Stanford International Bank. The Securities and Exchange Commission had been looking at Mr. Stanford off and on for several years. By the middle of 2008, the investigation into Mr. Stanford’s bank and his rates of returns had really reached a fairly rapid pace. Then around June of 2008, postal inspectors were asked to join the investigation given our past track record and history of investigating large Ponzi schemes. It became very clear that Mr. Stanford’s scheme wasn’t going to survive. The Securities and Exchange Commission filed with the court to have a receiver appointed to take over all of Mr. Stanford’s business operations since February of 2009.
On February 17, 2009, all of his domestic businesses were taken over by a receiver appointed by the court. That’s when the reality of the investments was laid bare. One of the steps involved is to serve all of the employees of Stanford’s company and including Mr. Stanford himself with the receivership order by the court. But at this point in time Mr. Stanford had disappeared and no one knew where he was.
About a week before the receivership order came through, a postal inspector had a received a call from a relative of theirs who was a pilot. They were one of the private pilots that flew one of Mr. Stanford’s planes. They said they were fairly sure they knew where Mr. Stanford was. They had flown him to the middle of Virginia to stay at his then girlfriend’s family’s home outside of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Sure enough that’s where Mr. Stanford was staying waiting for someone to come and find him.
Postal Inspector R.M. Hazelwood reflects on the complicated situation of Jim Bakker’s fraud as the inspection service had to tread carefully to investigate the man, not his religious organization.
RM Hazelwood: My name is RM Hazelwood. I was postal inspector in-charge in charge of the Jim Bakker investigation in Charlotte, North Carolina. This fraud investigation of Jim Bakker involved a Ponzi scheme basically where he took money for one thing and then used the money to pay off other debts. He created new programs every time he ran low on money. The difference in this Ponzi scheme was that it was involving a televangelist and a religious organization which meant we had to tread lightly because we were not prosecuting religion or a religious organization. We were looking at prosecuting an individual.
Jim Bakker was what I called a charismatic conman. The difference in his con was that he used God to fleece his thousands of listeners. What he basically did after he fleeced them was he lived the life of the rich and famous. He bought Rolls Royce’s. He bought diamonds. He bought gold-plated fixtures in his house. He even bought an air-conditioned doghouse for his dog.
When the trial started we had reporters from all over the world, hundreds and hundreds of reporters every day for the entire length of the trial from all over the country, from Europe, here. It was a very international-followed case. Judge Potter sentenced Bakker to 45 years in jail for the violations that he committed against over 120,000 individuals.
Postal Inspector Jack Ellis discusses crime lab comparisons of an artist’s real signature and the clues paper can offer.
Jack Ellis: This is Postal Inspector Jack Ellis, team leader. I was in charge of the Bogart Art Fraud case.
I actually made a trip to Figueres, Spain in an effort to interview Dali and to get some signatures. Unfortunately, when I arrived he was within a few weeks of his death, but his secretary who met with me had kept copies of things he had signed over the last couple of years of his life. She gave me those copies which I was able to provide to the crime lab with the fakes. They were able to determine that his signature was no way at all the ones that were appearing on the prints.
The other factor that the crime lab was able to assist us in is that these fake prints were printed on Arches Rives very high quality paper which was probably a dollar or so a piece at the time, just the paper, but they had watermarks unknown to the faker that identified the year the paper was created. Some of the fake prints which was supposedly going back into the ‘60s and ‘70s were printed on Arches Rives paper that didn’t exist until the late ‘80s or so and obviously could not have been what was being represented as an original print.
Postal Inspector Jack Ellis describes the Amiel’s art fraud scheme
Postal Inspector Jack Ellis describes the undercover sting he and fellow inspectors used to crack the Amiel’s art fraud scheme.
Jack Ellis: This is Postal Inspector Jack Ellis, team leader. I was in charge of the Bogart Art Fraud case in New York from approximately 1985 all the way through until 1995.
In order for us to be able to infiltrate or get the evidence on the Amiels, we've developed an undercover case in which Inspector Waiman Leung and Ray Hang posing as Asian art dealers approached the Amiels because we knew that they didn’t have yet a market in Asia in that area and thought that, that might attract them and asked them if they had anything for sale. Through a series of recorded conversations with the daughters and the wife of Leon Amiel, we were able to obtain evidence to obtain a search warrant of a warehouse in Island Park, New York, and seized over 80,000 fake prints during the seizure later determined to be worth well over $200 million.
Postal Inspector Paul Wilhelmus talks about interrogating unabomber Ted Kaczynski after the multi-year, multi-agency investigation ended with the capture of Kaczynski at his Montana cabin.
Paul Wilhelmus: I’m Paul Wilhelmus, I was a postal inspector. I’m part of the Unabomber task force. I was assigned to the interview team.
The ruse had been previously planned, it was two FBI agents and a Forest Service agent were going to approach Ted’s cabin, that they were doing a property survey and they might have to cut down a tree that could be on his property. The thought was that would be enough to get him out of the cabin. So when they approached the cabin, knocked on the door, Ted appeared, explained the situation, went to go back into the cabin and that’s when they grabbed him and so pulled him out of the cabin without any further incident. I just kept thinking, “This is the guy we’ve been looking for, all these people, all these hours, all these time?” That was my introduction to Ted Kaczynski.
So while the search was being initiated at his cabin, we started to interview him. His comment was, “I’ll talk about anything but the case.” And I thought, “Wow where did that come from?” And it was like, right then, you knew this was the guy. Ted had a certain arrogant air about him and during that time I always got the impression that he thought he was the smartest person in the room, smarter than all the rest of us in the room put together. But I kept thinking, too, he was the one in there in handcuffs and we were not. We were free to leave and he was not.