Monday, January 31, 2011

Utah may get more serious about affinity fraud

Utah has had more than it's share of affinity fraud cases over the years. Authorities say that in the past year alone, more than 4,000 Utahns have lost over $1.5 billion due to fraud. In many cases, the fraudsters engage in what is known as "affinity fraud" which refers to any type of fraud involving the exploitation of a relationship of trust. We naturally trust those we go to church with or those who are like us in some way including ethnicity. If exploits that trust to commit fraud, it is referred to using this phrase.

In Utah, the religious community provides an easy target for someone who wants to commit fraud. As such, fraud perpetrators build trust among a group of individuals in a social setting such as at church and then they exploit those relationships by getting people to invest in bogus business opportunities. Affinity fraud was involved in many fraud cases including Bernie Madoff's famous $50 billion Ponzi scheme. In that case, the Jewish community was exploited by Bernie.

Affinity fraud has been found in every religious community but also exists in other communities such as racial or ethnic groups. A large Ponzi scheme in Florida involved affinity fraud among the Haitian community. The deaf community also has been exploited by fraud perpetrators who developed relationships of trust and then exploited them to commit fraud.

Today's Deseret News reports that one Utah State Senator is sponsoring legislation to increase the penalties for any Utahn who is found to exploit relationships of trust. The article summarizes the proposed bill as follows:
The bill, which would modify the Utah Uniform Securities Act, would exact harsher penalties on those who use "undue influence" to "exploit the trust, dependence or fear of another person or gain their confidence" and "deceptively" influence their decisions. Harsher penalties would apply, as well, if the fraud victim is a "vulnerable adult." The bill would enable prosecutors to file second-degree felony charges in such cases.
The article also explains that, in addition to this bill, Sen. Ben McAdams is proposing other legislation to provide incentives for people to "whistle blow" by bringing forth information about questionable business deals. The article doesn't go into detail about the incentives but, if it resembles federal legislation, it may provide whistle blowers with some percentage of penalties that are collected by the state when a fraud case is uncovered.

I'm all for both of these bills. I have had people come to me and tell me their story about how they lost their life savings because a trusted friend exploited that relationship. It's not uncommon for these individuals to be near or in their retirement years and then to find they have lost much or all of their assets. These are tragic stories that tear your heart out to hear about.

I personally hope this legislation will help lock some of these perpetrators up for a long time!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Contador Investigation: A History of Smoke

As I posted previously in regards to Lance Armstrong, when an athlete has a history of doping allegations, it's wise to ask yourself whether the proverbial saying that "where there is smoke, there is fire" applies. So what about Alberto Contador? Does he have much doping smoke in his past?

Interestingly, VeloNews answered this question for us in an article titled "Alberto Contador's Doping Timeline" which details Alberto's history of doping suspicions and associations. (Incidentally, I may be wrong, but my impression of VeloNews is that they are hesitant to write much about this darker side of pro cycling. My impression is that it's rare for them to say much about Lance's allegations. They seem to be the last to discuss these topics. This time, they are leading the way.)

Here is a summary of the points raised in the article, along with some other links and elaboration by me. See if you think there is enough smoke to conclude a fire exists:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lance Armstrong Investigation: What the SI Article Tells Us

Now that the full version of the SI article is out, it looks like we had the most significant news in yesterday's synopsis. Although much of what SI wrote about is old news, they did give a lot of new details that we didn't have before. In addition, at least one new item from the article is a potential bomb shell for Lance in terms of the Novitzky investigation: the HemAssist issue. Here is why...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lance Armstrong Investigation: Sports Illustrated Story

Sports Illustrated (SI) posted on their website details of a story coming out tomorrow about Lance Armstrong. Although we will have to wait until the full story is released to get all the details, here is a short list of the significant allegations that SI reported today and that appear to be new:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Scientific Fraud: Autism and Child Vaccines

CNN is reporting that researchers are labeling academic research that linked autism to childhood vaccines as "fraudulent." Here is a quote:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Now this is a serious cycling ban!

VeloNation reported today that the Portuguese cycling federation handed out a record ban to a pro cyclist for multiple doping offenses. The federation insured that Pedro Lopes will not race again until he is 50! Here is a brief quote from the article:
Former Tour of Portugal stage winner Pedro Lopes has been handed a record ban by his national federation, and will be unable to compete as a rider for 15 years. The 35 year old has had multiple doping infringements and will be 50 years of age by the time he is eligible to race again.
I'd like to see more serious bans given to serious doping offenses. Two years is too little for someone who is caught deliberately injecting some PED into his or her body (e.g., EPO, CERA, HGH, etc.). Hopefully the pros would think twice before cheating if they knew that getting caught meant their career was over...