Saturday, 28 September 2013

Outrageous Stock Market Scammers

In 1982, when Barry Minkow was just 15 years old, he started a carpet-cleaning company, ZZZZ Best from his parents’ San Fernando Valley garage. He appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

By the time he was 19, Minkow had launched his company on the stock market. And less than a year later, “the company was worth $280 million on the NASDAQ exchange and Minkow had his own Ferrari, BMW and mansion in Woodland Hills.” The problem was that Minkow financed ZZZZ Best illegally, using everything from check-kiting schemes to fraudulent credit card charges and dodgy loans from criminals. He even sank as low as stealing his grandmother’s jewelry.

However, Minkow’s Ponzi scheme was destined for failure, and in 1987 it fell apart. Minkow’s scheme is now studied as an example of accounting fraud. Minkow became a preacher when he got out of prison and he was soon back to his swindling ways. In 2011, members of his church accused him of scams, leading to an FBI investigation.
In 1992, when Dennis Kozlowski became Tyco International’s CEO, Tyco was considered a blue chip and financially sound company. Kozlowski began skimming millions of dollars off the top through $450 million of unapproved stock sales and $170 million of unauthorized loans. The money financed Kozlowki’s increasingly opulent lifestyle – including a $30 million apartment with $6,000 shower curtains.

In 2001, Kozlowski threw a $2 million birthday party for his wife, with Tyco picking up half the tab. Time reports that the party was “disguised as a shareholder meeting” and that it “took place on an Italian island and featured an ice sculpture of the Statue of David urinating Stolichnaya vodka.” The infamous party is now referred to as the “Tyco Roman Orgy.”

Details of Kozlowski’s scam started to emerge in early 2002, at which point Tyco’s shares plunged by almost 80 percent in six weeks. In September 2005, Kozlowski and other company executives were sentenced to 25 years in prison. Kozlowski was eventually granted work release after serving only seven years.
Anthony Elgindy worked in cahoots with a corrupt FBI agent named Jeffrey Royer. Elgindy used Royer’s inside information about companies under government investigation in order to short-sell stocks. Meanwhile, he also used his website, Anthonypacific.com, to smear companies suspected of fraud, purportedly to protect investors.

According to prosecutors, Elgindy went as far as using the site to blackmail the targets of the negative publicity he was spreading. At the same time, he was also making millions from his website, with subscribers paying as much as $600 a month to view his “expert” stock tips. Elgindy was charged in 2005. After four months in court, he was acquitted of most of the 32 charges he faced but was convicted of inside trading. Elgindy was sentenced to nine years in jail.
In the mid-1980s, Michael Milken, a.k.a. the “Junk Bond King,” was investment banking firm Drexel Burnham Lambert’s star financier. By 1986, he’d helped to make Drexel one of the most profitable firms on Wall Street. But insider trading brought the house down and left Drexel fighting bankruptcy.

In March 1989, Milken was charged with an astounding 98 counts of fraud and racketeering. According to The New York Times, his biggest mistake was providing the company of stock trader Ivan Boesky with huge sums of money. Boesky, says the NYT, “was betting on takeovers, many of which Drexel had put together.” In 1986, Boesky had been implicated in a bigger insider trading inquiry and pleaded guilty, and part of his deal with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was to roll over on Milken. With this new information on Milken, the SEC launched an investigation into Drexel. Milken played it smart and pleaded guilty to six lesser charges out of the 98. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison but was released a mere 22 months later. And although he paid a significant $600 million fine (including restitutions), his total net worth in 2010 was estimated to be around $2 billion.
In 1997, billionaire Sri Lankan-American businessman Raj Rajaratnam co-founded hedge fund management company Galleon Group. In October 2009, he was arrested and charged with leading a team of insider traders. US Attorney Preet Bharara estimates that the scam yielded more than $60 million. According to authorities, between 2006 and 2009, Rajaratnam made his money by trading illegal stocks, with the help of his network of contacts. The stocks themselves included those of companies such as Google, eBay, Hilton Worldwide and Goldman Sachs.

In May 2011, a jury found Rajaratman guilty of 14 counts of conspiracy and securities fraud. And in October the same year, he received a sentence of 11 years in prison. Rajaratman was also ordered to pay a $10 million fine and relinquish $53.8 million in assets. At the time, his was the longest jail term ever imposed for insider trading.
Andrew Fastow served as chief financial officer for disgraced Texas energy giant Enron from 1998 until 2001 – when the company imploded. He “is considered the mastermind behind the financial schemes that doomed the energy company.”

Fastow and other Enron executives wove a tangled web that involved shell companies and fictitious revenue reports designed to make the company’s earnings look far, far greater than they actually were. Enron’s auditor, leading accounting firm Arthur Andersen, also collapsed in the wake of the scandal after following orders from Enron chief auditor David Duncan to destroy thousands of documents. Previously, Arthur Andersen had been ranked as one of the world’s top five accounting firms.
Bernard Ebbers was once hailed as “the Telecom Cowboy” and considered a Wall Street darling for turning small, Mississippi-based long-distance telephone company WorldCom (now MCI Inc.) into what CBS News called “a global telecommunications power, swallowing up companies along the way.”

When the stock price fell in the early 2000s, Ebbers’ shares in the company were marked as collateral for over $400 million in personal loans. WorldCom chief financial officer Scott Sullivan, whom Ebbers claims masterminded the entire scam, pointed his finger at Ebbers. Sullivan testified that Ebbers told him to manipulate the books so as to “hit our numbers.” In 2005, with the help of Sullivan’s testimony, 63-year-old Ebbers was sentenced to 25 years in prison for coordinating the $11 billion fraud that left WorldCom in ruins. It was what CBS has described as “the biggest corporate fraud and bankruptcy in U.S. history.”
Ex-NASDAQ non-executive chairman Bernard Madoff masterminded an elaborate Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors out of an estimated $65 billion. It is considered the largest financial fraud in the history of the United States.

Madoff offered seemingly low-risk, high-return investments that should have set alarm bells ringing: they were too good to be true. And while the abnormally steady returns prompted suspicion and unease among Wall Street advisers, possible investors and competitors, the statements Madoff’s firm released were too complex and unclear to really decipher. In the end, the ostensibly secure returns became massive losses for Madoff’s unsuspecting clients.

In June 2009, 71-year-old Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison on 11 counts of fraud, money laundering and theft.




Thursday, 26 September 2013

Cool Gemstones I

Mozambique paraiba tourmalines. 6.0 carats and 5.53 carats.

Burmese Red Spinel. 10.2 carats. In normal lighting conditions this gem is deep purplish red; under bright lighting the gem comes alive.
Green grossular is a variety of the garnet family. 12.04 carats. Varying amounts of vanadium and chromium account for the intensity of the green.

Golden brown sphene from Burma. This stone weighs 40.33 carats.
Vietnamese Blue Spinel. 2.59 carats.

Mozambique Ruby. 3.16 carats.
Sri Lankan Green Zircon. 20.85 carats.

Amber from Burma.



Monday, 23 September 2013

Mozambique gold mining

Manica, Mozambique - They are washing the soil, day and night, hoping to reveal gold.

80 percent of gold prospectors arrive illegally from the neighbouring country of Zimbabwe. The miners claw at the earth between 15 and 20 metres beneath the surface, in an extensive tunnel system.

The diggers work on their own account, and after selling the gold they must give half of the money to the owner of the land.


Workers earn 15 meticals (about $0.50) per sack they deliver to the river. On average, they deliver 48 to 50 sacks a day.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2013/04/2013417134429794713.html

Friday, 20 September 2013

Lost Gold of the Confederacy

On the night of May 24, 1865, two wagon trains filled with gold, one containing the last of the Confederate treasury and the other money from Virginia banks, were robbed at Chennault Crossroads in Lincoln County.

Chennault Plantation, owned by Dionysius Chennault who was an elderly planter and Methodist minister, played a significant role in the story. The gold was to be returned to France who had loaned the money to support the Confederacy. Jefferson Davis had given his word that the gold would be returned regardless of the outcome of the war.
Towards the end of the war, Captain Parker of the Navy and a group of other volunteers brought the gold from Richmond, Virginia, to Anderson, South Carolina, by train and from there by wagon hoping to get to Savannah to load it on a waiting ship.

Parker was to camp outside Washington, Georgia, where he was to meet with Jefferson Davis and receive further instructions. Parker's group camped on the Chennault place and then received word to proceed on to Augusta and then Savannah, while avoiding contact with the large number of Union troops present in Georgia. Their scouts met Union troops before they got to Augusta.
The group returned to the Chennault Plantation. Parker was unable to receive further instructions from Davis because he had already left Washington.

It was on this night that the gold disappeared in a hijacking about 100 yards from the porch of the house. One theory says that the treasure was buried at the confluence of the Apalachee and Oconee rivers. Some say that the gold was divided among the locals.

Union troops later came to the Chennault Plantation to find the gold. They tortured the occupants of the house trying to force them to reveal where the gold was hidden but to no avail. The entire Chennault family was taken to Washington, DC to undergo intensive interrogation. They were questioned thoroughly as to the whereabouts of the gold, but the Chennaults could not tell anything that was not already known. They were released a few weeks later and returned to their home in Georgia.
As time went by, the Chennault plantation became known as the "golden farm," and for many years after that people came there to search for the missing gold. Down through the years, many gold coins have been found along the dirt roads near the plantation following a heavy rain storm.

Legend persists that the treasure was hastily buried on the original grounds of Chennault Plantation and remains there today.



Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Dangerous Plants

The English Yew is native to Europe, Northern Africa and South West Asia. It is a small to medium tree that has seeds enclosed in a soft, red, berry like armor. The berry armor is the only part of the fruit that is not poisonous and this allows birds to eat the fruit and spread the seeds without ill effect. It takes a dose of about 50g to be fatal to a human. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, muscle tremors, convulsion, collapse and finally cardiac arrest. In cases of severe poisoning, death can set in so fast that the other symptoms are missed.
Water hemlock, or poison parsnip, is a group of highly poisonous plants that is native to the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. The plants all have very distinctive small white or green flowers, arranged in an umbrella shape. Water hemlock is considered to be North America’s most poisonous plant as it is incredibly poisonous to humans. The plants contain a toxin named cicutoxin which causes seizures. This poison is found in all parts of the plant but is most concentrated in the roots, which is most potent in the spring. Besides the almost immediate seizures, other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pains, tremors and confusion. Death is usually caused by respiratory failure or ventricular fibrillation and can occur just a few hours after ingestion.
Wolfsbane, also known as leopard’s bane, or devils helmet, is a plant belonging to the buttercup family. These perennial plants are native to mountainous regions of the northern hemisphere. The plant contains very large quantities of a poison called alkaloid pseudaconitine. In cases of ingestion, symptoms include burning in the limbs and abdomen and sets in immediately. In cases of large doses, death can occur within 2-6 hours and 20ml is enough to kill an adult human.

Wolfsbane is mentioned in mythology and werewolf lore as being able to either repel the werewolves/lycanthropes, or to induce the wolf state regardless of the moon phase. Hence the name.
The Rosary Pea, also known as Crab’s eye or Jumbie bead, is a slender perennial climber that twines around trees, shrubs and hedges. The plant is native to Indonesia, but grows in most parts of the world. It is best known for its seeds, which are used as beads, and have a bright red to arrange color with a single black spot. The poison contained in the plant (abrin) is very similar to the poison ricin, found in some other poisonous plants. There is one main difference between these poisons, and that is that abrin is about 75 times stronger than ricin. This concludes that the lethal dose is much less, and in some cases as little as 3 micrograms can kill an adult human.
Belladonna, also known as Devils berries, death cherries or deadly nightshade, is native to Europe, North Africa and Western Asia. It is also one of the world’s most poisonous plants as it contains Tropane alkaloids, some of which cause delirium and hallucinations. Other symptoms of Belladonna poisoning include loss of voice, dry mouth, headaches, breathing difficulty and convulsions. The whole plant is poisonous, but berries usually play the greatest risk, as they are sweet and tend to attract children. 10 – 20 berries can kill an adult, but it only takes 1 leaf (in which the poisons are much more concentrated) to kill a full grown man.
Castor plants are indigenous to the Mediterranean basin, eastern Africa and India, but are widely grown as an ornamental plant. A toxin called ricin is found throughout the plant, but is concentrated in the seeds/beans (which castor oil is made from). One raw seed is enough to kill a human in 2 days, which makes for a long, agonizing and unstoppable death. The first symptoms will be experienced within a few hours and will include a burning sensation in the throat & mouth, abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. The process is unstoppable and the final cause of death will be dehydration.

Strangely, humans are the most sensitive to these seeds, as it takes 1-4 to kill a full grown human, 11 to kill a dog and a whopping 80 seeds to kill a duck. The castor plant currently holds the Guinness World Record for most poisonous plant.




Saturday, 14 September 2013

Strange and Unusual Creatures

An adult star-nosed mole. The mole literally inhales its food, taking less than a quarter of a second to identify a piece of food, grab it, eat it, and then look for more.
The elephantnose fish (Gnathonemus petersii).

"Human Faced Fish" are hybrids of common carp and leather carp.
A millipede named lllacme plenipes (Latin for "the pinnacle plentiful feet") is found only in a small area of Northern California and has 750 legs.

Matamata (Chelus fimbriatus)
Furry lobster (Kiwa hirsuta)


Sucker-foot bat (Myzopoda aurita)
Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum)


Fathead fish (genus Psychrolutes)
Frill-necked Lizard (Chlamydosaurus kingii)

Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis)