Anatomy Of A Scam Investigation, Chapter Ten

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33 Responses

  1. Kelly says:

    Many have expressed frustration that David Bell and his crew are able to conduct mail fraud so openly for so many months without result. I admit I have been frustrated as well. However, at the moment, for reasons I will not discuss, I am not frustrated. More on that in the next chapter, perhaps.

    Ken, you are such a tease.

  2. VPJ says:

    First more Marc Stephens and now more scam investigation. My cup runneth over and was refilled with a double shot of entertaining goodness.

    Or a double shot of good bourbon. That works too.

  3. trepto says:

    As a note, the item you originally received from UST is a statement, which is a list of open items (i.e.; unpaid or partially paid invoices) on an account. Statements will often break items into categories by days past due. The recent item is (or appears to be :\ ) an invoice, which generally won’t show “days past due”. It might be worth putting the word out specifically for newer statements generated by UST; not only does a statement imply an ongoing business relationship, but past due items are more likely to be given the “pay first, ask questions later” treatment.

  4. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    Why do I get the feeling that the sky is about to fall on David Bell?

  5. Talisker says:

    Ken, you are such a tease.
    Seriously :)

  6. Rliyen says:

    You're just keeping the bubbles in the champagne! TEASE!

  7. Al says:

    I imagine Dave's wondering why he just heard the "Dun dun DUUUNNN" music.

  8. Dizo says:

    UST is working it's way East. I came across your site while researching an almost identical "invoice", as you posted here, sent to the government office I work at in Minnesota.

  9. Ken says:

    Dizo, would you mind passing the invoice along to me at ken [at] popehat [dot] com? Thanks.

  10. mojo says:

    "You cannot shame a scoundrel."

    Wise words.

  11. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    "You cannot shame a scoundrel."

    but you CAN break his knees.

  12. mojo says:

    "Don't the good book have some specific injunctions about killing, Preacher?"
    "Indeed it does, son, mighty specific. It is, however, a little more open-minded on the subject of kneecaps."

  13. Lago says:

    now I can't wait for the next installment..

  14. Saedi Folluf says:

    This (installment ten) page is linked as chapter nine (twice in a row) on your index page for this series. Keep up the pressure, I applaud you!

  15. Andrew Feldstein says:

    Shouldn't you have also blacked out the invoice numbers so the scamsters themselves can't even identify the tipsters?

  16. Ken says:

    Andrew: I strongly suspect that the invoice numbers are randomized, drawn from a small overlapping pool, or at least not used to keep track of which invoice went where.

  17. Rich Rostrom says:

    In Chapter Eight of this series, you commented:

    In my experience, nobody is as chilling as a career con man. The level of sociopathy — the extent to which everyone is merely an object to be manipulated — is difficult to grasp. So is the sheer relentlessness and remorselessness of the conduct.

    But the entertainment mass media have romanticized con men for many years. Case in point: last night I happened to walk in on my mother while she was watching The Music Man – a highly regarded work of entertainment about a roguish yet lovable con man.

    How do you feel about this sort of thing?

  18. Craig says:

    The scheme has now hit South Dakota as well. The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission has attempted to contact UST but they won't respond… big shocker there.

    It appears they are targeting school districts because they assume nobody will be paying attention. These people are the scum of the earth… right below the people who take up two parking spaces at Target.

    http://www.argusleader.com/article/20120211/UPDATES/302110034/PUC-warns-of-deceitful-billing-scheme

  19. Guy says:

    The city of Lewiston, ID has posted a fraud warning on the front page of their website about UST: http://www.cityoflewiston.org

    As an added twist, the local radio has reported that the Nez Perce Tribal Gov't may have been a victim of UST as well. Would having a federally recognized sovereign nation as a plaintiff open up any different options?

  20. Arclight says:

    As one of the tipsters, I'm not sure it matters if he identifies my company by the invoice number. Since this is a solicitation, aren't we just generating him free advertising by posting it to a much wider forum?

  21. Scott Jacobs says:

    Only if someone is stupid enough to seek to retain a company found via a series of posts about how the dude is ripping you off.

  22. VPJ says:

    I would never make the assumption that someone *wasn't* that stupid.

  23. Scott Jacobs says:

    I'm not saying they couldn't possibly be that stupid…

    I'm just saying that if they are, they deserve it…

  24. Laura K says:

    "Pay no heed to them, they were killed of their own idiocy…"

    Henry Knox, Secretary of War, 1790s.

  25. Joe Pullen says:

    Hey Ken, here is to hoping we will hear from you again soon. Especially on this particular subject. I think I'm having withdraw symptoms. Likely you are working in the real world on some interesting case.

  26. Rich Rostrom says:

    I've been reading this series from the beginning. So before I ordered a temperature controller from "ScienceLab.com" last month, I should have smelled a rat. Google would have warned me.

    But I just placed the order. They immediately informed me the item was on backorder. After three weeks of hearing that it was on backorder, I learned that our credit card had been immediately billed. I definitely should have smelled a rat then.

    But last week I got an assurance that the supplier (which they never named) would ship that week, and when they got it, they would ship to me.

    (Very odd way of doing business these days. If one doesn't stock the item oneself, why waste money having the item shipped to one and re-shipped, rather than drop-shipped directly to the customer?)

    Yesterday, they went back to the "backordered, will ship in 10 days" line. I said to cancel the order. They informed me that after three days, they only offer "store credit". I finally recognized the scam.

    They are going to regret this. I have nothing better to do than go after them. I'll be reviewing this series for techniques and methods.

  27. Adam says:

    I'm getting antsy; Simple Justice closed shop, and now Popehat hasn't posted jack for half a month :(

  28. h4x354x0r says:

    These false invoices are showing up all over the midwest presently (3/1/2012). It's very frustrating that these scammers have continued to operate, and are still continuing to operate. These perps are obviously consumate scam artist professionals. Let's hope they can eventually be brought to justice, but… I'm not holding my breath.

  29. Don't be fooled says:

    *** Name change ***
    Branden Bell is now the "Director" of the new company name, California Consultants Group, located at a new office in Pomona, CA. Has anyone come across invoices with an address on Bonita? I think its 527 or 537 Bonita Road or Ave. I'll see if I can hunt it down and update.

  30. joug says:

    I'd bet [NAME EDITED] is one of the scammers.

    Joug: I don't know who that is, and I'm not going to let you accuse him anonymously and without evidence. Feel free to email me, or to elaborate.

  31. Jenelle says:

    Thank you for your website. We are a nonprofit based out of Sedalia, Missouri and we received what looked like an invoice from “UST” in the mail yesterday.

    The address is
    P.O. Box 970
    La Verne, CA 91750-0970
    Phone# 800-217-9437
    Fax # 626-205-1133

    The website is: http://www.us-telecom.com

    The description is “Telecom Maintenance Agreement”
    Rate: $425
    It also says “Thank you for your business, this warranty covers preventative maintenance on all telecom system equipment, including, telephone instruments, switches, routers, & cabling”

    Just wanted to give you the heads up it hit Missouri. When I called the California BBB they said they had received one other complaint from Missouri in the past week.

  32. Mike says:

    We just received an identical invoice in Illinois for "Telecom Maintenance Agreement" that Jenelle had posted. Since I pay the Telecom invoices, this was a humorous. The same invoice went to several agencies I support. I guess they are now targeting government agencies too…