KNOW WHO YOU’RE GETTING IN BED WITH
by bill orth
Some of you will know who these examples refer to, but that’s not the point. I have only sketchy, second-hand details about some of these deals, and do not pretend to be factual beyond using these cases to sound a warning of what can go wrong when you trust the wrong person. To that end, these details are sufficient and I intend to respect the privacy of those involved.
Not long ago, one of our members decided he wanted to sell his two Ferraris. He had developed a friendly rapport with an engaging individual (not in our club) who seemed to share many of his Ferrari-related interests and appeared to have deep experience with the cars . When the member mentioned to this individual that the cars were going to be offered for sale, he volunteered to help market them through his extensive connections in the Ferrari community. This commonality of interest and the new friend’s helpful personality led the cars’ owner to entrust his Ferraris to this person’s care and possession. In fact, I understand this individual agreed to buy one of the cars himself and to turn up a buyer for the other one.
In short order, one of the cars disappeared to a “buyer” who was going to forward the money promptly. The other one began to make appearances at other Ferrari events in the hands of the friendly agent, who announced to one and all that he had bought the car from our local member. This nefarious gent also had another Ferrari, a 355 Challenge car, that he was taking around to these same events. The only problem was he had never paid its owner either, nor did he ever get around to paying for the Colorado car—and, of course, payment from the mysterious buyer of the other car never materialized. Instead, like all good con men, he had a repertoire of glib payment promises whenever the cars’ owners called. They’d get their money as soon as various not-quite-clear third-party funding operations were completed. Each time he was asked about payment—when another previously-promised deadline was missed—he’d come up with other plausible-sounding delaying tactics.
In the meantime, the guy was busy selling these cars he didn’t own. The 355 Challenge car was “sold” to a buyer in Florida, along with a huge stockpile of spare parts, wheels, tires, engines, etc. The Florida man paid for everything but then found that the car didn’t get delivered like it was supposed to be. All the spares were supposed to be in a storage unit here in Denver, however, and the Florida man was invited to come and collect that stuff. So he hired a U-Haul truck and paid someone to drive it to Denver from Florida, load the stuff and drive back to Orlando. However, when the driver arrived, on the appointed date, the smooth-talking agent—who was supposed to meet him and take him to the storage unit— wasn’t answering his cell phone. After three days of trying to connect with the agent, he took the empty truck back to Florida. (I understand that the storage unit and all of its contents had already been seized by some agency that was after this guy for other transgressions.)
So, we have a man in Florida who paid for a 355 that he can’t locate and he also paid for a bunch of expensive Ferrari spares that he can’t find, along with all the associated expenses of the fruitless trip with the U-Haul. We have somebody somewhere who had initially entrusted the 355 and its parts to the agent, but he hasn’t been paid either. Then we have our friend in Colorado who is missing two valuable Ferraris that he hasn’t been paid for….and the agent isn’t answering his cell phone any more. About this time all the abused parties begin to realize that they don’t know where this guy really lives. He just shows up at Ferrari events and occasionally drops hints about his whereabouts, but nothing concrete, and of course, they had all been told that the “best” (only) way to reach him is on his cell phone.
The beauty of such anonyinimity is that no one can ever confront you. The cell phone displays who is calling, and if you don’t want to talk to them, you just don’t answer. They leave a message asking for a call-back and that buys you another couple of days before they try again. This is the real crux of my little essay. Rather than focusing on these particular incidents, my point is that they illustrate the perils of trying to do business with someone who isn’t businesslike. If the person or entity does not maintain a known physical presence somewhere, how can you ever seek redress when something goes wrong? Just like shopping on e-Bay; if the seller does not disclose a (real) location and phone number, and chooses not to answer your e-mails, what can you do? Just read the negative feedback received by some of the hustlers on that site about money sent and merchandise never received, or something seriously wrong with it if it did…and no effort to correct the problems ever made by the sellers.
Taking the internet scams to a new level, reports are coming in now of a new trick: Using craigslist.com instead of an auction site like eBay, the scam artist advertises something attractive at a truly bargain price—usually around a couple thousand dollars (craigslist.com is an internet site where you can post things you have for sale—not an auction—and it is organized regionally. You type in “Denver/Boulder, Colorado” and instantly see everything currently listed in any of a dozen or more categories) Normally, a buyer would connect with the seller at his home and complete the transaction. In this case, however, when someone contacts the “seller,” he is instructed to meet him in a public location, like a K-Mart parking lot, and to only bring cash. The price sounds so good that the potential buyer trots right over….and gets held up! An efficient thief can fleece several people on the same imaginary item at different locations in one day and then throw away the stolen cell phone he had been using and the email address he used will turn out to be bogus as well.
The moral of the story is that it can be risky to do business with someone who is not a known, locatable and licensed entity. And when you’re talking Ferrari values, it becomes even more chancy, because the big fish don’t bite on small bait. Someone who has put such a scam into operation is usually pretty savvy and difficult to track down. And if he is rounded up, what’ll happen? His argument will be that the injured party willingly entrusted his car(s) to him—which they did—and he just hasn’t wrapped up the sale of them yet—despite how badly he’s been jacking the owners around. There’s no law against being ineffective or not returning phone calls. A successful prosecution will be difficult under those circumstances and restitution virtually hopeless. Fortunately, I understand our friend has managed to get one of his cars back and I hope the other surfaces safely, too. As the Sergeant used to say on Hill Street Blues, “Be careful out there!”
- - - Bill Orth - -