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.



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)




Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Dangerous Minerals

Coloradoite is a crystalline mineral originating in magma veins. The mineral is a mercury telluride compound formed when mercury fuses with tellurium, another extremely toxic and rare metal.

The combination of the two elements poses the risk of serious poisoning if carelessly handled. If heated or chemically altered, deadly vapor and dust is released. Interestingly, the mineral may be mined economically for its tellurium content. Tellurium minerals may combine with gold. The streets of Kalgoorie in Australia were mined in a bizarre gold rush after the realization that gold-bearing tellurides had been used to fill potholes.
Chalcanthite crystals are composed of copper, combined with sulfur and other elements and water. This arrangement turns copper into an extremely bio-available crystal. The copper becomes water soluble, and may be assimilated in great quantities by any plant or animal, rapidly weakening it and then killing it.
Hutchinsonite is a hazardous but dramatic mixture of thallium, lead and arsenic. The three poisonous metals form a lethal mineral cocktail.

Thallium is the dark twin of lead. This thick, greasy metal is similar in atomic mass but even more deadly. Thallium is a rare metal that appears in highly toxic compounds consisting of combinations of elements. The effects of thallium exposure include loss of hair, serious illness through skin contact and in many cases, death.
Galena is the principle ore of lead, and forms glistening silver cubes with almost unnaturally perfect shapes. Although lead is normally extremely flexible, the sulfur content of galena makes it extraordinarily brittle and reactive to chemical treatment. Galena may lead to lead dust exposure.

Once extracted, the lead content from this mineral poses environmental and health threats during treatment and extraction. Galena has a cubic fracture, and if hit with a hammer, the crystal will shatter into multiple smaller replicas of its original shape.
Asbestos is a fully natural category of minerals composed of silica, and the most abundant of Earth’s hard elements, iron, sodium and oxygen. Asbestos deposits consist of aggregates of thousands of tiny, fibrous crystals that can become airborne and lodged in the human lung. Carcinogenic effects occur through persistent irritation of the lung tissues, leading to scarring.
Arsenopyrite is arsenic iron sulfide, which is the same type of mineral as pyrite (fool’s gold, iron sulfide), but with a heavy addition of arsenic. If one attempts to heat or in any way alter the mineral, a strong garlic odor of arsenic will be produced as lethally toxic, corrosive and carcinogenic vapors are released. Just handling the mineral brings one into contact with unstable sulfuric arsenic salts.
Torbernite crystals form as secondary deposits in granitic rocks, and are composed of uranium. Formed through a complex reaction between phosphorous, copper, water and uranium, the crystal releases lethal radon gas.

The bright green crystal blooms were used by prospectors as indicators of uranium deposits.