My name is Jim, and I have spent most of my adult life swindling people out of money — big money. I worked in 30 fraudulent business operations over a 10-year period, pitching everything from gold coins to time-shares to oil and gas leases and other business opportunities. These scams took in millions of dollars. No matter how much money we made or how far-fetched the deal was, I never got caught. That is, until Sept. 30, 2004.
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That was the day 40 U.S. postal inspectors and FBI agents with gold badges and guns burst into my office. This was on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami. We occupied two full floors of a nondescript commercial office building. The place housed numerous other scam boiler rooms I had worked in, but you would never have known that from the outside.
"Hang up the phones — it's over!" one agent yelled.
The particular scam here was an Internet-kiosk business opportunity. We'd been running TV ads claiming that investors could make thousands of dollars from computer kiosks placed in high-traffic areas like airports and shopping malls. For a small fee, passersby could use these kiosks to check their email or surf the Web. Back in the early 2000s this was a hot idea. We told people they could earn a minimum of $30,000 to $35,000 per machine each year. This was pure baloney — the machines didn't generate anything close to that kind of income. And we sold them at huge markups. We took in $17 million from 700 unwary investors in about eight months. At least 100 employees were in the building at the time of the raid, including secretaries and other clerical staff. A lot of them didn't even know that the business was a fraud.
The agents gathered everyone in a big open area we called The Pit — where, moments earlier, dozens of salesmen had been pitching prospective victims over the phone — and started calling out people's names. They were handed letters explaining whether they were targets of the investigation, material witnesses or something else. When they called my name, things got quiet. I was the manager of the room; people wanted to see how I would react. As I walked over to retrieve my letter, my cellphone went off. The theme from The Godfather (my new ringtone) filled the room. People couldn't help but laugh.
The next thing I knew, a postal inspector took me into a side room and told me, "Your day just got shitty, and it is going to get shittier."
That was the end of my last scam. The Feds sent a dozen guys to prison. I did 37 months, and it probably should have been longer.