Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves
By: Bill E. Branscum
Copyright: September 2004

I've made the point before, but it's a point worth making again - when you hear someone say, "You cannot con an honest man," you are talking to a buffoon whose ignorance serves to add unwarranted insults to insufferable injuries. As any investigator of "white collar crime" will attest, fraudsters, swindlers, con artists, grifters, gypsies, tramps and thieves perpetrate scams upon innocent, honest, victims every day.

Consider, for example, the favorite target of modern day cons - the farmer from America's midwest. These people spend a lifetime isolated from most of the world; their interpersonal interactions are largely limited to church, school and community functions, where everyone knows everybody else and everybody else's business.

It's a curious dichotomy - while farmers tend to be remarkably independent, they live in an an environment that they do not control. Like the rest of us, they buy their stock, feed, seed and groceries at prices set by others; when they go to the feed store, they pay what things cost, or they do without. I don't suggest that they are preyed upon by local merchants, that isn't generally the case. They expect to pay a fair price for quality products and usually do, frequently trading with people whose grandparents provided the same goods and services to theirs.

Like many of us, their financial situation varies from time to time. Once in a while, they make it big - the bumper crop to end all crops or prolific breeding stock having done what they do best, but unlike the rest of us, they market the fruit of their labors at prices set by others, the "supply v demand" irony being that having more to market, often means less to take home at the end of the day.

Can you imagine working twice as hard and having your Client cut your hourly rate in half come pay-day? Unfortunately, it isn't even that easy - farmers don't get pay checks; they have no bi-weekly influx of cash to rely upon.

To survive on a farm, you learn responsibility early on - or you don't survive. Farmers generally get up before sunrise and work a full day, everyday. They work with Mother Nature, or against her, competing with her pests and fearful of her fickle ways. No rain, too much rain, or just enough rain - but at the wrong time, a farmer's got to have a sense of humor.

Independent people, they rely upon themselves and each other. In a community where everyone knows everything that goes on with everyone else, the liars and the lazy are despised; those who would cheat, steal, betray trusts, or take unfair advantage are shunned to the point of virtual extinction. It's not that everyone is honest and forthright in a farm community; it's just that there are limits and lines that folks don't cross. The used car salesman who rolls back speedometers, and packs saw dust in transmissions, cannot expect to stay in business there.

Exposing these people to social predators is like giving smallpox infected blankets to the Indians. They simply do not have the natural defenses to protect themselves from the likes of; Robert LaSpada, Al Wagner, Dave Graves, Robert Evans or Bernard von NotHaus and his NORFED nonsense.

I am involved in several cases related to the above referenced purveyors of "investment opportunities," and their cases may provide some insight that will help you to understand how these things work. In the event that you encounter a Client who has been scammed by one of these characters, please let me know. I would like to add the facts and circumstances of their victimization to the reports that will be tendered to the appropriate enforcement authorities.

This is a work in progress; once I get the underlying information posted, the links will be "live." In the meantime, please do not hesitate to call should you have a Client who has a related complaint.

  • Robert LaSpada, his son John and their IFF Scam

  • Albert J. Wagner, CPA

  • Dave Graves

  • Bernard von NotHaus and NORFED

  • Robert K. Evans (& son Robert L.)

Of the lot, CPA Al Wagner may be the most interesting. He travels the Country preaching some sort of accounting voodoo that encourages people to walk away from their debts. He claims that since accountants offset loans extended against promissory notes received, those notes have value -- ergo the obligation was satisfied by merely signing the note! Yes, you heard that right - CPA Wagner's innovative approach to financial freedom rests upon the premis that since accountants treat a Promissory Note as an asset on company books to offset outstanding loans, there is no reason to actually make the payments!

"Earth to Wagner . . ."

Like so many con artists, Al Wagner is fond of quoting scripture, and I suppose part of him must mean well as he was kind of enough to provide me with Robert Evan's IMF (his confidential IRS tax related master file) and a complete set of Bernard Von NotHaus' financial records. Since these guys were Clients of his, some might regard that as a betrayal of trust, but it's like Momma said, "There's no honor among thieves."

Trusting Al Wagner can be dangerous and disappointing.

One of the things that I find most disturbing, is the "family" nature of so many of these scams. Like gypsies, many of these con artists involve their children in their criminal enterprises. Like trade secrets and craftsmanship, they pass their scams from father to son. I have been doing this a long time, but I cannot quite grasp the concept of stealing with your children, and promoting the twisted belief that crime pays.

It is my sincerest intention to correct that.

I welcome your comments, questions and suggestions.

© Copyright 2002 - Bill E. Branscum. All Rights Reserved.