"CAN I GET MY MONEY BACK
NO, YES, YES, AND MAYBE.
By David G. Hanger
September 13, 2005
In the past three weeks I have
received several dozen e-mails from Pipsters who have finally
seen the light and realize they have been ripped off. Just
two soreheads in the bunch, and the primary question has been,
"Can I get my money back from PIPS?" In many
instances you do have positive prospects in that regard.
As a statistical sample these
e-mails present one somewhat disturbing aspect: Very few
people invested the minimum. Most invested between $3000
and $10,000, and one individual invested $40,000. The implication
of this should be fairly obvious to law enforcement and business
types. If the average is as high as $5000 per head and
the low-end number of 80,000 victims is correct, this is one
whopper of a scam.
To date most commentaries or
observations about PIPS originating with law enforcement or with
the press have emphasized the fact that your money is basically
gone, little or no chance of recovery. I do not endorse
that point of view because I do not believe it to be an accurate
assessment of your options. Basically, your prospect for
financial recovery is contingent on how you got into PIPS, or
perhaps more succinctly who else might have helped or encouraged
you to get into PIPS.
To start, however, you must discard two completely separate mindsets.
First, buck it up and face up to the fact it is difficult and
embarrassing to admit a mistake. It's embarrassing enough
sitting by the side of the road while some cop writes you a speeding
ticket; even more embarrassing if, as I did some years ago, you
have to peal yourself out of a completely totaled car, then personally
report the fact of your own one-car accident to the cops.
PIPS victims have been inundated with secret society and cult
conduct, specifically intended to inculcate paranoia and an atmosphere
of 'them and us.' You have been conned; a good con leads
you to con yourself. There is no reason for embarrassment;
they are masters at their craft. Be mad that they have
made you feel bad, even for a moment, about yourself.
Second, get this notion out of your noggin that Bryan Marsden,
wifey-poo, and staff are the only criminals involved in this
scam. You have lots of targets. Owen Platt has plenty
of story from his point of view in the personal downfall of Bryan
Marsden, but the Marsdens very well may not be the primary beneficiaries
of this scam. Platt has discovered that at the local level
people who have been ripped off for a lot of money sometimes
get real angry and actually on occasion make bombastic threats,
and he is clearly quite squeamish about this. I, on the
other hand, find that pretty ordinary conduct given the circumstances.
A lot of the money ripped off in PIPS' name did not go very far
and instead ended up in one of your neighbor's hands. The
incredible number of local grifters who have come out of the
woodwork, in combination with previously honest individuals who
decided that stealing from their neighbors was OK, makes the
many local stories about PIPS ultimately far more interesting,
and probably more volatile, than the fate of a couple of sleazemeisters
Finally, do not regress in any sense. Despite a lot of
misinformation to this day, PIPS is dead. It is not coming
back, and the evidence is strong that the Marsdens will not be
able to buy their way out of their current dilemma. They
have been very deftly boxed in. A number of people have
asked why mainstream national and international media have never
carried this story. I can assure you many serious-minded
people are curious about that. There have in fact been
many efforts on the part of numerous individuals to bring this
to the attention of national and international media. One
response I have specifically received is that this is happening
in Malaysia, and it is not worth the effort to get the information
from Malaysia because of the lack of local significance.
I present the hypothesis that the media is a product of the intelligentsia,
and PIPS is as anti-intellectual as you can get. The media
just cannot take it seriously, and, if you think about it, that
might be an understandable point of view. Turning $1500
in five years by giving it to Bryan Marsden into an $87,000 lump-sum
payment plus $9300 a month for life is ridiculous. End
of story, what's the problem? Mainstream media will
report the story when the trials are concluded; there are many
more interesting things in the world for the mainstream media
to be concerned about right now.
Can you get your money back if you sent your money straight to
PIPS in Malaysia? NO. The probability of recovery
if you dealt with Malaysia directly is painfully low.
Can you get your money back if you gave your money to a local
intermediary who then sent all of your money to Malaysia?
YES. Sue the SOB that took your money; that individual
has little defense against a civil action. He is acting
as an agent in the furtherance of a criminal activity.
Whether he or she profits directly thereby or not is immaterial.
It depends on the jurisdiction and the laws in other countries,
but it is also highly probable such an intermediary has engaged
in felonious conduct and can be criminally charged. Be
pissed, file a complaint. Local law enforcement may not
want to proceed with such a case, but once a complaint is filed,
they don't have much choice. You'll have to watchdog 'em
and kick 'em every step of the way, that's all. These are
the kinds of cases that sit on the corners of desks for a long
time unless someone agitates.
Can you get your money back if you gave your money to a local
individual who pocketed your cash and sent PicPay to Malaysia?
YES. In most respects see the preceding paragraph.
This is also essentially 'prima facie' evidence of blatant theft,
larceny, etc.; a good detective could come up with a laundry
list of serious charges against such an individual. The
incentive for a quicker and more complete recovery of lost funds
is optimal with this option. The more complete the recovery,
the shorter the time in prison to be served.
Can you get your money back by going after someone else?
MAYBE. There are a fair number of internet sites like 'Talkgold'
and the 'HYIP Forum' that make a lot of money by advertising
and promoting these scams. I have also seen these ads on
Google and MSN. Is there culpability here? The mantra
of business is to do anything that is legal, thus by this very
limited standard it is presently legal to advertise and promote
criminal frauds. The apparent assumption by these organizations
is that they can get away with this without any legal consequence.
That is not a bet that I would make. PIPS, for example,
is used as the number one come-on to the 'Talkgold' site.
The attraction to 'Talkgold' advertisers, therefore, is that
the PIPS forum on 'Talkgold' attracts a lot of ready-made and
well-trained suckers, what we more simply called 'fruitflies'
in a less relativistic time. I believe a sharp lawyer could
easily argue that constitutes a business plan, if not a business
model. In such case I think you could prove culpability
if you could prove you were in fact influenced to blow your dough
by these ads. Not impossible, but certainly more complicated
to do that.
There are also those many individuals
who have boasted on the internet that they are "in profit"
from this activity. None of them are as anonymous as they
believe; they can be tracked right to their individual computers.
These people are all thieves, and they have next to no defense
in civil court. The worst of them can potentially face
serious criminal charges as well.
Anything you do is an uphill fight. You first have to overcome
inertia created by your own embarrassment. You then have
to motivate and keep motivated law enforcement assets to resolve
your case. You may need an attorney. Each individual
must decide for themselves how much their money is worth to them,
how much their pride and dignity is worth to them, and then determine
how far they want to go in seeking justice and retribution.
Obviously, if a small quantity of money is involved, file a complaint,
and otherwise forget it.
You also may have an edge if you are a member of a group of PIPSters
left out in the cold. Law enforcement in at least one jurisdiction
has recommended the pooling of resources to take action.
This opportunity is clearly much more prospective than multiple,
isolated individual actions.
There is also the question of tax consequences, and in the USA
that subject is direct and simple:
1) Capital gain and loss
rules do not apply. PIPS income is ordinary income.
2) PIPS is a criminal enterprise, specified as such by the FBI
and by numerous other actions.
3) All gains from a criminal enterprise are taxable as ordinary
4) All losses from a criminal enterprise are not allowable in
computing taxable income.
I encourage all of you who
have lost substantial sums to PIPS to take prompt and vigorous
action. Good luck in your endeavors.
David G. Hanger
Ketchikan, AK - USA
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