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Fun on Friday: Scammer Gets Help from High Places

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Usually, the government tries to stop scams. Unless, of course, the government is part of the scam.

No, I’m not talking about the Federal Reserve. I’m actually talking about a Liberian gold scam that US law enforcement uncovered last fall. As it turns out, Liberian government officials facilitated a key part of the scammer’s scheme.

US authorities called it “one of the most intricate scams they’d ever seen.” The mastermind behind the plan was a Liberian businessman named Cassell Kuoh. He owned a successful Liberian soccer team and, as he told it, a profitable gold mine.

“Nick” was a victim of the scam. He researched Kuoh on the interwebs. He emailed Kuoh and asked him questions. Then he hopped on a plane to Liberia to see the gold for himself.

And he saw it.

There’s nothing like going to see 100 million dollars worth of gold. There’s nothing like it. I guess some people would say heaven.”

Now, here’s where my skepticism kicks in. It would take a lot to convince me that I could really take a bunch of gold out of Liberia, pay any export taxes and expenses, sell it and then keep half the profit. I would either think it was A. Bull-cookies or B. Likely to land me in prison. C. Both.

Anyway, Nick wasn’t as skeptical as I. He bit. And apparently, a lot of other people did as well — people from all over the world, according to an ABC report.

Kuoh’s ace in the hole was that he actually showed his potential investors real gold. It wasn’t fake. It was the real thing. According to Kuoh:

What they see is unbelievable. The setup is very big.”

You know … like heaven.

Kuoh even let his victims test the gold in any manner they wished. And of course, the tests checked out because the gold was real – 96% pure as Kuoh tells it.

But of course, there was a problem. You know the saying: if it sounds too good to be true it probably is,” right? Well, seriously people, you need to take that saying to heart. It’s not just a trite saying. It’s freakin’ true.

The problem was Kuoh’s family gold mine wasn’t producing very much gold at all. So, he paid some government officials to let him use government gold as a prop for a day.

Think about this for a moment. Kuoh pulled off the equivalent of me going to Fort Knox and bribing some guys to let me borrow some of the gold for a day. I mean, you gotta give Kuoh props for his ballsiness.

Kuoh created a website so his victims could track their “shipments.” Of course, there were constant delays and snafus that required more and more fees to keep the packages moving.

The truth of the matter: there is no package. So, we have to create new stories to get new money.”

Again, I think my natural skepticism would kick in. After about the second “snafu,” I would be like, “Naw man.”

But then again, they saw the gold. Seeing is believing, right?

Nick said once you get in so deep, you’ve got to get out somehow. So, he started borrowing money from friends and relatives.

So – how much did Nick lose?

Six, seven, eight million dollars.”

I’m sorry. That’s unfathomable to me. First off, it’s unfathomable that I would have $8 million to invest in any kind of scheme. But it’s also unfathomable that somebody would be able to milk $8 million out of me one story at a time. Weren’t there any red flags here? I mean – Liberia is a red flag. It’s not Nigeria, but come on, man.

Maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe if I saw the gold, I would have fallen for it just like Nick. But I really don’t think so. Heck, I don’t believe some things that are probably true. I may be cynical. And that may not be the best character trait. But it has thus far protected me from getting scammed out of $8 million. So, there’s that.

Kuoh shed some tears, said he was sorry, and promised nobody else would be scammed by him. I’m skeptical. But we’ve established that.

According to the report, he hoped that talking about the scam and apologizing might get him a reduced sentence. It didn’t. He’ll spend seven years in prison and has to pay about $17 million in restitution.

No wonder he was crying.

So, what about those government officials? There was nothing in the report indicating that anybody in the Liberian government was charged. Shockingly, the Liberian embassy never responded to ABC News’ request for comment.

Government jobs. Nice work if you can get ’em.

Fun on Friday is a weekly SchiffGold feature. We dig up some of the off-the-wall and off-beat stories relating to precious metals and share them with you – with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Click here to read other posts in this series.

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