Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Daring Con Man Who Sold The Brooklyn Bridge

George C. Parker was one audacious con man.

This New Yorker is supposedly the first guy who came up with ballsy idea of “selling” the Brooklyn Bridge to unsuspecting rubes after it opened in 1886.
Shockingly, the scam worked. Parker is said to have sold the bridge twice a week for years.
His typical marks: gullible tourists and immigrants. And it wasn’t just the bridge he sold but Grant’s Tomb, the Statue of Liberty, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and other monuments.
“He preyed on unsuspecting foreigners who believed that America was the land of opportunity, assuring them they could buy as an investment the right to charge tolls or fees for access to the landmarks,” writes Tamar Frankel in The Ponzi Scheme Puzzle.
Parker’s success convinced other swindlers to try their hand at selling the bridge. But they may not have gone as far as Parker did, who set up a fake real estate office and forged documents proving he was the owner.
He was arrested for fraud a few times and finally sent to Sing Sing for life in 1928. His one legacy: the phrase “I’ve got a bridge to sell you” was inspired by his ruse.
[Images: NYPL Digital Gallery]

Interviewing The Elderly

As investigators we find victims' in every walk of life, and in every stage of life as well. Many times a case will come in involving an elderly victim. Whether it's a robbery, fraud or even family related victimization, getting the answers is what we're all about right? As most of us know, sometimes communicating with another generation, be it before or after our own can be difficult. There are gaps in our philosophies, thought processes and styles of communicating to name only a few. There are however some basic "go by's" that I believe make it easier to get what you need from an elderly person, be they victim or witness. Again, these are basic and every person is different unto themselves as they move through an event:

First thing is to remember that as in other generations, there are all different levels of a persons ability to communicate. There are 75, 80 and 85 year old people who span the spectrum in their ability to recall what has happened and/or what they have seen. Don't assume that because you are interviewing an elder  they cannot hear you well. Speak in a normal tone and judge from there if you have to raise your voice a little for them to hear you. It's a mistake to begin speaking in a loud voice or try to over simplify your words. The person may feel like they are being spoken down to and you will begin to shut them down before you even get started.

Make sure you show respect. If you are speaking with an elderly person, don't forget they come from a different time where elders were given respect. First of all they deserve that... and usually expect it too!

Allow time for the interview. This is a mistake that is made with all types of victims,witnesses and offenders alike, not just the elderly. When we all began our careers in pretty much the same way; running from one problem  to the next, we were focused on getting there, getting the basics; "Just the facts Ma'am"...and moving on to the next one. Well, now we are tasked with getting beyond the basics and that takes time. Don't be in a rush (even if you are) and do not allow the person your are interviewing to feel your desire to get the info and take off. You may have to spend some time and allow the story to unfold. You can and should guide them in the direction you need to go and help them stay on track if they "wander".

"You" may have to answer questions! Some elders fee like they have lived long enough to say whatever they want to. That may come in the form of asking you anything from how much you are being paid to how did you get their name or any other number of questions that might seem inappropriate. Be prepared to answer as tactfully and diplomatically as you can.

Always leave the "door open" for additional information. This may be as simple as leaving your business card to going back another day and asking the same questions in a different manner or  sequence.

In summary, an interview with an elder may be as routine as any other you have conducted or may leave you emotionally drained based on the individuals abilities and willingness to patient, respectful and know when it's OK to joke around a little bit. You'll know that by some of the responses you get and your subjects overall demeanor. These encounters can be extremely rewarding if handled properly.
Hank Asher; The Father of Data Fusion

In January of this year Hank Asher passed away. He was affectionately known as the father of data fusion.
If you ever searched for information gleaned from a public record or any other source, chances are Hank's hand was involved in your ability to do it. I cannot adequately explain in this Blog what Hank has meant to the law enforcement community around the world. Hank was a special person who lived to fight terrorism around the world with his ability to think outside the box with computer algorithms. He also loved helping children and our fight to protect them from the hands of online predators and pedophiles. I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Hank on several occasions. "Unique" falls well short of one word to try and describe Hank, but it leads in the direction one would need to go. To say he will be missed leaves volumes to be spoken. Literally....the world lost something special when Hank left it... in attending his memorial in March I learned much more about Hank than I knew. If I was impressed with the man before, I was left in awe after hearing people speak about some of the things he had done that I was unaware of. I hope his family, friends and the company and technology he helped create can continue on...God's speed Hank...