Phicklephilly Special Report: Men in California Oversaw a Romance Scam that Targeted Women Worldwide, Feds say

In March 2016, a man claiming to be a US Army captain stationed in Syria reached out to a Japanese woman on an international site for digital pen pals.

 

Within weeks, their relationship grew into an internet romance with the man sending daily emails in English that she translated via Google. The man who called himself Terry Garcia asked for money — lots of it — from the woman identified as FK in federal court documents. Over 10 months, she sent him a total of $200,000 that she borrowed from friends, her ex-husband and other relatives to make her love interest happy.
But in reality, Garcia did not exist. It was all an international online scam ran by two Nigerian men in the Los Angeles area with the help of associates in their home country and other nations, federal officials say.
And Thursday, US prosecutors charged 80 people — mostly Nigerians — in the widespread conspiracy that defrauded at least $6 million from businesses and vulnerable elderly women.
Of those, 17 people have been arrested in the US so far and federal investigators are trying to track down the rest in Nigeria and other nations.
“We believe this is one of the largest cases of its kind in US history,” US Attorney Nick Hanna said.

A plan to smuggle diamonds

The whirlwind online romance between FK and Garcia was all conducted on a Yahoo email address with no phone calls. Garcia told FK he wasn’t allowed to use a phone in Syria, according to federal authorities.
Demands for money started after he told her he’d found a bag of diamonds in Syria and needed her help to smuggle it out of the war-torn nation. He said he was injured and could not do it himself — and introduced her to associates he said would help facilitate the transfer, court documents allege. One said he was a Red Cross diplomat who could get the diamonds shipped to FK, court documents show.
Shortly after, another man who claimed to work for a shipping company asked FK for money to ensure the package was not inspected at customs, the complaint alleges. Requests for additional money kept coming, with the fraudsters citing different reasons each time on why the package was stuck at customs.
“FK estimates that she made 35 to 40 payments over the 10 months that she had a relationship with Garcia. During that time, the fraudster(s) emailed her as many as 10 to 15 times each day, and Garcia was asking her to make the payments, so she kept paying to accounts in Turkey, the UK and the US,” the federal criminal complaint says.
The loss of money has left FK angry and depressed, authorities said. “She began crying when discussing the way that these losses have affected her,” the criminal complaint says.

17 arrested and dozens on the run

The scams were not just limited to romance, Hanna said. They included business schemes where fraudsters hack escrow company email systems, impersonate employees and direct payments that funnel money back to themselves.
“In some cases, the victims thought they were communicating with US servicemen stationed overseas, when in fact, they were emailing with con men,” Hanna said. “Some of the victims in this case lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in this way.”
Of the 80 people charged, federal authorities arrested 14 people mostly in Los Angeles, the local US Attorney’s Office said Thursday. At least three other defendants were already in custody. The remaining suspects live in other countries, mainly in Nigeria, and investigators said they’ll work with the respective governments to extradite them.

How the scam worked

Investigators detailed an intricate scam traced to two key suspects who oversaw the fraudulent transfer of at least $6 million and the attempted theft of an additional $40 million.
Once co-conspirators based in Nigeria, the United States and other countries persuaded victims to send money under false pretenses, the two Nigerian men who lived in Southern California coordinated the receipt of funds, the indictment says.
The two men provided bank and money-service accounts that received funds obtained from victims and also ran the extensive money-laundering network, the complaint alleges.
The two men were arrested Thursday. All defendants will face charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and aggravated identity theft. Some also will face fraud and money laundering charges.
Paul Delacourt of the FBI’s Los Angeles warned people to be careful as romance scams escalate nationwide. The Federal Trade Commission has said scams that prey on vulnerable people cost Americans more money than any other fraud reported to the agency last year. More than 21,000 people were conned into sending $143 million in such schemes in 2018 alone, it reported.
“Billions of dollars are lost annually, and we urge citizens to be aware of these sophisticated financial schemes to protect themselves or their businesses from becoming unsuspecting victims,” Delacourt said.

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Real-life Philly Horror Stories: 4 Tales of True Crime from a Former City Medical Examiner

Real-life Philly horror stories: 4 tales of true crime from a former city medical examiner

 

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Tales of Rock: Alice Cooper – Discovery

Most drunken purchases are best forgotten.

But not this one.

The rock star Alice Cooper was so caught up in “a swirl of drugs and drinking” that he apparently forgot he owned a silkscreen of an electric chair by his friend Andy Warhol that could now be worth several million dollars.

The forgotten work has spent the best part of the last forty years in a storage locker, and was only rediscovered four years ago when Alice’s mother found it ‘rolled up in a tube’ in the locker.

The work has never been stretched on a frame.

According to a report in the Guardian by the British writer Edward Helmore, Cooper’s then-girlfriend organized the purchase of the work, a red Little Electric Chair silkscreen, from Warhol’s Death and Disaster series, for $2,500 in the early ’70s.

However, amidst the chaos of his rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, Cooper forgot all about the purchase, and was shortly afterwards admitted to a psychiatric hospital, according to his manager, the legendary Shep Gordon.

Gordon told the Guardian that Cooper and Warhol became friends in New York in the ’70s.

“It was back in ‘72 and Alice had moved to New York with his girlfriend Cindy Lang,” Gordon told the Guardian. “Andy was kind of a groupie, and so was Alice. They loved famous people. So they started a relationship, and they loved to hang out.”

At the time, Cooper had a stage routine that involved him feigning electrocution in an electric chair.

After learning that Warhol had produced images of the electric chair – the work is based on a press photograph from 13 January 1953 of the death chamber at Sing Sing prison, where Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for passing atomic secrets to the Russians—Lang, who passed away in January at the age of 67—had the idea to approach the artist’s studio and purchase one of the 1964 canvases.

“As I recall,” Gordon told the Guardian, “Cindy came to me for $2,500 for the painting. At the time Alice is making two albums a year and touring the rest of the time. It was a rock’n’roll time, none of us thought about anything. He ends up going into an insane asylum for his drinking and then leaves New York for LA.

“Alice says he remembers having a conversation with Warhol about the picture. He thinks the conversation was real, but he couldn’t put his hand on a Bible and say that it was.”

After a chance meeting with a Los Angeles art dealer, Ruth Bloom, Gordon was reminded of the work, which measures 22 x 28in, and Alice’s mother found it rolled up in a tube in storage.

Upon learning that the top price paid for a Little Electric Chair was $11.6m, at Christie’s in November 2015 for a green version dated 1964, Cooper said he didn’t want anything of such value in his house—and put it back into storage.

Richard Polsky, a Warhol expert believes the canvas dates to 1964 or 1965.

“I’m 100%,” Polsky told the Guardian. “It looks right, and the story just makes too much sense. It’s hard to appreciate how little Warhol’s art was worth at the time. Twenty-five hundred was the going rate at the time. Why would Andy give him a fake?

“He had plenty of electric chairs. They were not an easy sell. They weren’t decorative in the conventional sense. It’s a brutal image.”

Gordon added: “At the time no one thought it had any real value. Andy Warhol was not ‘Andy Warhol’ back then. And it was all a swirl of drugs and drinking. But you should have seen Alice’s face when Richard Polsky’s estimate came in. His jaw dropped and he looked at me.

“‘Are you serious? I own that!’”

 

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Celebrity Sightings – Jacqueline London

I’ve known Jackie for a few years now. She’s  lovely woman and just as nice as she is beautiful.

Emmy-winning journalist Jacqueline London joined NBC10 in March of 2013. She can currently be seen co-anchoring NBC10 News at 5 PM and 11 PM weekdays.

Prior to joining NBC10, London was with WKMG in Orlando, Florida, where she spent 10 years as an anchor and reporter. While there she was named ‘Best News Anchor’ by The Orlando Business Journal. She also earned two Suncoast Emmys while at WKMG, one for the program “Primetime London” which she wrote, produced and hosted.

With over 15 years of experience in broadcasting, London is known for her exclusive one-on-one interviews, from local newsmakers and celebrities to President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. In late 2013, she interviewed Jimmy Fallon as he prepared for his new role as host of The Tonight Show, NBC’s iconic late-night program.

London got her start at ABC affiliate WQAD in Moline, Ill. During her two years there, she anchored the station’s weekend morning news and reported for the afternoon and evening newscasts.

Active in the community, London is involved in women’s issues and other causes close to her heart. She actively works to raise awareness for heart disease and diabetes. Since moving to Philadelphia she has emceed the American Diabetes Association’s Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes, Philadelphia’s 2013 Heart Walk, and the 2014 Annual Heart Ball.

London earned a B.A. in journalism & mass communication from The University of Iowa. A native of Chicago, she currently resides in Philadelphia and enjoys exploring her new hometown.

 

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Tales of Rock – Special Report – Rapper Nipsey Hussle Dead after a Shooting near his Los Angeles Clothing Store

Rapper Nipsey Hussle died Sunday after a shooting in Los Angeles near a clothing store he owned, according to a high-ranking law enforcement official with the Los Angeles Police Department.

Two other people were injured in the shooting around 3:20 p.m., according to the department.
The shooting occurred in the area of Slauson Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard.
All three victims were transported to a hospital, where one of them was pronounced dead, according to police. The other two were in stable condition, police added.
In a tweet, the department said it has no information about the suspect.
The rapper’s last message on Twitter read: “Having strong enemies is a blessing.”
In 2010, Hussle, 33, whose birth name was Ermias Davidson Asghedom according to IMDb.com, founded the record label All Money In, which he debuted with the release of “The Marathon,” the rapper’s fifth official mixtape. His 2013 “Crenshaw” release sold more than a thousand cassettes each priced at $100, according to his Press Atlantic Records biography.
The next year, he performed across the country in his Crenshaw Tour.
Hussle teamed up with dozens of successful artists, including Kendrick Lamar, Drake, YG, Ty Dolla Sign, Meek Mill and Young Thug.
He made moves outside the music industry, too. Last year he launched the first Marathon Clothing smart store at 3420 W. Slauson Ave. in Los Angeles. He also owns The Marathon Agency, SC Commercial Ventures, Proud 2 Pay and All Money In No Money Out Records, according to Press Atlantic Records.
His Facebook says Hussle was “a devout member of the Rolling Sixty Crips,” a national street gang that was founded in Los Angeles in the mid-1970s.
His page lists Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg and Tupac as some of his influences.
Hussle was nominated for best rap album at this year’s Grammys, but lost to Cardi B.

Stopping gang violence

Mark Ridley-Thomas, a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors who represents the southern part of the city, released a statement Sunday night saying his district mourned the loss of Hussle.
“Ermias Asghedom, known to us as the hip-hop artist Nipsey Hussle, was a father, businessman, entertainer, and inspiration to many,” Ridley-Thomas said, urging his district to stay calm and reflect on the tragedy. “Our communities have lost too many young men and bright futures to the scourge of gun violence. For healing to occur, even from this terrible incident, justice must be sought through legal means, and community peace must be found.”
Hussle had been scheduled to meet with LA Police Commissioner Steve Soboroff and LAPD Chief Michael Moore on Monday to discuss ways to stop gang violence, Soboroff said on Twitter.
“We (@LAPDChiefMoore and I ) were meeting, at the request of @NipseyHussle with him and @rocnation tomorrow at 4pm to talk about ways he could help stop gang violence and help us help kids. I’m so very sad,” Soboroff tweeted.

Stars pay tribute

After news of his death, dozens of celebrities expressed their shock and condolences on social media.
“My spirit is shaken by this,” Rihanna wrote on Twitter. “Dear God may His spirit Rest In Peace and May You grant divine comfort to all his loved ones! I’m so sorry this happened to you.”
“Sad, mad and disappointed about my guy,” rapper Ice Cube tweeted.
Pharrell Williams wrote Hussle was about “something.. positive and for your community in every chance you had to speak.. and because of that You inspire millions.. millions who will uphold your legacy forever.”
Rapper J. Cole tweeted that Hussle was a “legend”
“I respect and admire your career path and what you did for the neighborhood. My heart broke today when I saw the news. I’m praying for your loved ones,” Cole tweeted.
Other artists, including Chance the RapperMeek Mill and Drake, also took to social media to say their final goodbyes, along with athletes Stephen CurryLeBron James and Colin Kaepernick.
Clarification: The headline and article have been updated to reflect that Nipsey Hussle was owner of the clothing store near the site of the shooting.

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Tales of Rock – Kurt Cobain Kills Himself Twice

“Like Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, he was 27 years old when he died.

And let us not forget Amy Winehouse who also died at age 27.”

Few musicians’ experiences with drug abuse have been as complex and intense as Kurt Cobain’s. For proof of this, see the index of Charles Cross’ 2001 Cobain biography Heavier Than Heaven. If you check, “Cobain, Kurt Donald; drug use of…” you’ll basically be instructed to read the entire book. He started off heavily averse to heroin; during his formative years, a friend suggested they try it and he stopped hanging out with him in response. He eventually tried the drug; when asked how it was by Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, he shrugged, “Oh, it was all right.” But his habit escalated.

By the time Nirvana appeared on Saturday Night Live in 1992, Cobain was so deep in heroin addiction that he was vomiting and barely able to stand right until the time came to perform. He somehow pulled it together long enough to play “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Territorial Pissings” on live television. In March 1994, Cobain attempted suicide for the first time by washing down a large dose of flunitrazepam with champagne while in Rome. He nearly died and ended up in a coma for a day (Novoselic claimed that, mentally, he was never the same after this).

Within weeks he was back in Seattle, crashing on his daughter’s junkie nanny’s girlfriend’s couch and popping out occasionally to purchase speedballs and burritos. Cross quotes the girlfriend as saying, “He’d sit in my living room with the hat with the ear coverings, and read magazines. People came and went; there was always a lot of activity going on. Nobody knew he was there or recognized him.” By the end of the month, Cobain was given an intervention and packed off to rehab in California. But he soon escaped the facility by scaling a six-foot wall and, improbably, found a seat on a flight back to Seattle next to Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan.

Despite beef between Nirvana and Guns N’ Roses, the two bonded, finding a great deal of common ground as famous musicians from the Pacific Northwest with heroin problems. Once back at his house, Cobain reattempted suicide and this time he meant business. He injected a lethal dose of heroin and then blasted himself in the head with a shotgun, effectively killing himself twice. Like Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, he was 27 years old when he died.

And let us not forget Amy Winehouse who also died at age 27.

Another sad rock and roll tragedy. Showbiz is the only industry that eats it’s young.

Check this out:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/27_Club

A footnote from phicklephilly: “I never understood suicide. You get one chance to be here, why leave early if you don’t have to? Suicide’s for quitters. I’ve suffered with anxiety and depression my whole life. I’ve beaten the shit out of them both (without drugs) and now we’re all on the same side. Suicide is always a long term solution to usually a temporary problem. I just don’t get it, Kurt. I was in a band when I was younger. It was an amazing experience. Kurt, you play music for a living. You’re in a famous genre inspiring band. You’re surrounded by a gaggle of moist women. Your bank account is full and your nuts are empty. WTF?”

 

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What Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos’ Divorce Could Mean for Amazon

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/10/tech/jeff-bezos-divorce-amazon/index.html

 

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