Keith Jones was scammed out of US$110,000 by a fraudulent investment firm. Not surprisingly, law enforcement initially had little interest in the case, so Mr. Jones decided to track down the criminals on his own, leading him from his home in Australia to Thailand. He made this high-quality and fascinating documentary of his sleuthing.
HSBC bank, which gave the scammers an account to rip off Mr. Jones, also refused to help him. (That's not surprising either, once you read Matt Taibbi's Rolling Stone article, "Gangster Bankers: Too Big to Jail How HSBC hooked up with drug traffickers and terrorists. And got away with it.")
Above, an update to Jones' story. Unfortunately, the criminals are still at large.
This story is one of deceit, theft, police incompetence, international loopholes and the apathy of a major corporate bank. It is also his story of how almost entirely on his own he tracked down a sophisticated gang of fraudsters.
This is his second time in Bangkok in two years, and exactly as before, he’d rather not be there, but unfortunately, sometimes, there are things that you just have to do whether you like it or not. He’s about to board an overnight train to Chiang Mai, a 14 hour journey to the north of Thailand. He’s making this film as a record of the atrocious and ridiculous events that have lead him to this point. He’s also making it as some sort of catharsis. Finally, he’s making it as a stark warning to others.
Life can be strange sometimes. One minute, you can be travelling along thinking that everything is okay, and almost out of nowhere, the malicious actions of another person can affect your life forever. His story begins back in Australia. He was working from his office one day, when the phone rang. It was the company calling themselves Humphrey Capital Investments, a global financial services group with offices in California and Singapore. Over the coming weeks, he had several informal conversations with their senior portfolio manager John Thompson. One of his recommendations was to invest in Nokia shares. This seemed to present a good buying opportunity.
Humphrey Capital Group sent him client forms, and after processing his application, they bought Nokia shares on his behalf. He subsequently paid the invoice by bank transfer to their company account at an HSBC bank in Hong Kong. Over the coming weeks, John Thompson rang him several times to discuss his portfolio, but at the end of the month, he rang to tell him that his company had been bought out by a group called Wellnic Investments. His new advisor would be Edward Martin, the Vice Chairman of Wellnic Investments. Wellnic’s credentials looked similarly impressive, and their website showed detailed information on the company.
A few days later, he had a call from Edward Martin, and like his predecessor, Edward had an American accent and came over as professional and friendly. He explained that he’d be his new advisor, and he looked forward to a long and profitable relationship, and that’s exactly how it turned out to be. Over a very long period, Keith Jones purchased a variety of low-risk US stocks, trusts and deposits. All trades were paid for through account at a HSBC Bank in Hong Kong.
Subsequently, like the proverbial lamb to the slaughter, he continued to make investments through the Wellnic Group. Within 12 months, he’d invested over $110,000 US dollars. Even saying it now makes him feel quite sick. You often hear that people are scammed through greed, and where unrealistic returns are involved, but most of his investments with Wellnic were supposed to pay around 10 to 12 percent per annum; good, but at the time, not unrealistic. In fact, it was only when things started to sound too good to be true that he became suspicious.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects