Fraud – if it’s a ‘victimless crime’ is it still a crime?

Some months ago I was invited to invest (a relatively small initial sum) into a ‘fund’. A fund, I was told, that had been remarkably successful last year. – and was due to start again shortly (this back in February 2018). The fund was called the ‘Samson fund’ . The fund would ostensibly seek to profit from the apparently over-priced nature of many of the world’s stocks.  Some might call this ‘short selling’ – I saw it as more like making use of market mechanisms to (hopefully) redistribute wealth more widely (ideally with some coming in my direction). It was also promoted as a way of benefitting, rather than suffering, from the current market ‘volatility’.

Having for the previous three years and more invested my life’s-savings directly into an innovative technology startup, as its CEO, a venture that ultimately failed (as so many do), I was naturally keen on an investment that, whilst ‘a little risky’ in the words of my financial adviser, might produce a bigger return than conventional funds (this at the time of the egregious revelations being made in the Australian Government’s Royal Commission into Financial Services). My way of redressing the balance, as it were. So arrangements were made. I had several phone calls with the so-called fund’s ‘staff’ – including with the chief dealer who would be setting the investment strategy. His strategy seemed compelling  – go “short on Tesla” and other over-valued Tech Stocks and pick at Eurobonds and other opportune politically initiated market movements (of which there are many these days). On reflection I may have even suggested this approach myself in an earlier conversation with one of his staff. Hoist by my own petard?

Being cautious, and less than flush with cash, I elected a small, 5000 Euro investment (1/2 a ‘unit’ – which, surprisingly, they allowed – a missed warning?). The funds were duly transferred to Bank Millennium S.A. in Poland, after a last minute change of instructions by the fund from the original target of The Bank of Cyprus (a second missed warning?) which they said was due to ‘oversubscription’ (I’ve never heard of a bank turning down business due to unexpectedly high demand!).

Once all funds were (irrevocably) transferred and received by ‘the fund’ they promptly (and I’d acknowledge, with better than industry average speed and professionalism) established me on ‘their’ trading system so that I could see ‘in real time’ the performance of my investment. Or at least see something that might excite me (profits rising – winning deals ahead of the market – that sort of stuff). Of course, there was the occasional bad bet – losses – sometimes quite large would ripple through – but by the end of the week all would be good again. The ‘balance’ would be (very) positive (again, a missed warning?). By now I was both suspicious and resigned to my fate (total loss) but decided to play along with the charade as I was deeply interested in seeing how it would actually pan out. They were creating a tremendous facade of highly believable ‘trading’ (’though it was likely fictional), they were sending me daily emails with attached ‘market reports’ (which actually made quite interesting reading – clearly written by a market-informed Englishman with good style and dry wit). Just the merest particle of me hung on the slim chance that the profits were ‘real’ – I guess the reported losses were carefully put there to exploit a quirk of psychology.

Their alleged ‘chief dealer’ even called me (once only) to chat about how he saw the market (and to ask if I’d “like to invest further funds given how well it was all going?” – another warning message – this time received and understood). I made my excuses (truly all of my available funds had been invested in Acoustic 3D Limited and Vastigo Ltd – and I wasn’t expecting any return with which to further invest). Needless to say I never heard from ‘Robert Sarin’ again.

Why do I tell you this? In part to ram home to myself the lesson I have just paid 5000 Euro for (which can be summarised thus: if it sounds too good to be true, it invariably is!) and partly to act as a warning to anyone else considering such ‘investment’. Of course, it might be argued by the founders and operators/perpetrators of the ‘Samson fund’ (more correctly ‘Samson scam’?) that I went in with my eyes open – and that it was my own greed that led me to make the poor decision to ‘invest’. In other words they might argue that I was not ‘their victim’ but ‘a victim of myself’ hence no crime was committed by them. Thus they may be of the opinion that they are, at worst, guilty of a ‘victimless crime’.

I however see it somewhat differently. They had wittingly used a number of sophisticated techniques to draw me, and others, into their fund – and then had fabricated an ongoing ‘trade’ to ensure that I didn’t alert authorities whilst they continued to attract ‘investment’ – or rather ‘con’ a few more unsuspecting individuals. Thus this is a crime every bit as pre-meditated as a bank robbery.

To my mind this crime must not go unpunished. The perpetrators need to be brought to some form of justice, somewhere . The Internet may be their hiding place for now – but from experience it can also provide the tools for their identification and tracking – and it can put them out of business, for now and forever. I intend to make it my mission to find these men – and close them down. Of course, the more grown-up part of me (the bit that learned the lesson?) might have some sympathy for the perpetrators – what was so bad in their childhood that they were able to turn to a fraud of this type for income and self-actualisation? I feel sorry for them.