Too cool to be true.
When that same person pockets the money, pays back other investors, and flies the coop across the Pacific Ocean before you see a penny, that’s what the FBI calls pretty uncool.
More specifically, the feds call it something else: a Ponzi scheme. More formally, in indictments filed in federal court in San Diego, federal prosecutors called it conspiracy and 11 counts of wire fraud, when they named Mesa's Joe McCool as a defendant.
He and codefendants Donald Manning and Cameron Campbell bilked people out of $10 million, according to the indictment.
That was in 2006. Earlier this month, the FBI named Joseph Wayne McCool, the suspected con man with the perfect name, something else: wanted.
That probably has a lot to do with the last line on the wanted poster. It reads: “Additionally, McCool may be in the Philippines.”
But to understand why he’s wanted, why he’s apparently been on the lam for 11 years, you have to go back to the beginning, back to Mesa, and back to a company called Brixon Group Ltd, as it was described by the federal grand jury indictment.
Through Brixon, McCool, Manning, and Campbell told investors they would be putting their money in a European investment outfit that reserved money for a high-yield insurance portfolio.
McCool and the gang guaranteed that investors would make 15 percent a month, but said 5 percent would be plowed back in to buy insurance on the original investment. The plan couldn’t fail, the trio told investors. The State Bar of California backed it up, they told unwitting investors, according to federal prosecutors.
One of those investors was a San Diego-area woman. In 2000, she believed she was going to rake in the big bucks by contributing to a company that was going to lend money to a group bringing refrigerators to war-ravaged Eastern Europe, court documents allege. After all the looting, burning, pillaging, and genocide in Bosnia, people just yearned for a new fridge. Sounded reasonable.
When investors like her asked why they weren’t seeing dividends, Brixon did what any good business would. It blamed the government. Specifically, it claimed red tape from the Patriot Act “and a variety of international banking problems” had tied the money up in Europe.
The three defendants also convinced people to turn or roll over their retirement accounts to Brixon by putting them in a trust account. They also talked people into signing power of attorney to Campbell to invest their money.
The investors got duped because McCool told them, he was a “banking expert in Europe” who before Brixon “had successfully managed a large private trust in Europe,” the indictment said.
The tricky trio left a few things out. Lies of omission, as federal prosecutors like to say.
One, according to the indictment, was that McCool had just been let out of a two-year prison term for, you guessed it, conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Oh, and conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods, for good measure.
Not mentioned was that the California Bar certifies lawyers and has nothing to do with banking.
Or that most of their money went to earlier investors. Or that hundreds of thousands of dollars of the rest made its way into the pockets of McCool and Co. “for personal gain,” as the indictment put it.
“Joseph Wayne McCool is being sought for his alleged involvement in a Ponzi scheme that was based out of Mesa, Arizona,” the FBI announced earlier this month.
The Bureau describes him as white and 70 years old with gray hair and blue eyes. He is 6-foot, 2-inches tall, weighs 230 pounds, and has scars on his right knee and wrist.
Should you ever find yourself in Manila to invest.