Eye on the Prize

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Chapter 9

Chapter 9

Marco was driving back to the Delaware office. He just completed the drop off to Sal in South Philly. It was unnerving. He could feel the tension between him and Sal as he regarded Marco with loathing. He had a feeling that Dom’s soldier would have clipped him already if it was his own choice. It was apparent that he was using every ounce of willpower to stop himself from killing Marco on the spot. Since Dom made the decisions, the soldier loyally followed orders since he had a reputation to protect. Sitting in uncomfortably close proximity to Sal reminded Marco how he needed to be painstakingly careful and on his best behavior if he intended to stay alive. It was no joke dealing with the mafia, and the last thing he wanted was to rock the boat by drawing attention to himself. Diana was absolutely on target with her advice. He would have followed her recommendation if there was another option to make a fortune fast. If Dom suspected that Marco was skimming a larger percentage than instructed for his personal luxuries, there was no question that it would be GAME OVER.

A call rang through the speakers and temporarily interrupted his thoughts. It was no big surprise that it was Brad. Marco hit the steering wheel in frustration. Jesus, Brad was the last person he wanted to hear from right now. What a pain in the ass! Marco composed himself before answering the call.

“Hey, Brad. Good to hear from you. What can I do for you today, buddy?”

“Listen, you have been wonderful with taking my calls and answering my questions, but it’s time for me to push my personal feelings aside.”

“Brad, what’s going on? What are you talking about right now? Slow down for a second, man. It sounds like you are trying to gain

the confidence to break up with me. Talk to me and tell me what’s bothering you.”

“Please, I need you to let me finish without interruption. You keep brushing me aside like a gnat every time I ask for my money. Let me enunciate again that it is MY money. The shenanigans are going to end immediately. I am sick and tired of hearing excuse after excuse of how you need to hold onto my money for a little bit longer. You constantly dream of why I cannot have my money, and frankly, I am sick of it. I demand my money!”

“Brad, this is a simple misunderstanding. I am not trying to keep your money. I am trying to make you more money. It is my job to look out for your best interest. I have a degree to handle personal finances.”

“I do not need you to make any more money for me. According to my wallet, you currently have $500,000 of my retirement money and another $125,000 in profit. I am cashing out. I will meet you at your Philly office tomorrow for the check. This request is non-negotiable.”

“Brad, I hear what you are saying and have no problem with your request except that tomorrow is not nearly enough time. There is no possibility that I can get that amount of money in less than twenty- four hours. It is an unreasonable demand. I am out of town until Monday.”

“Please understand that I am not playing this game with you. You need to take what I am saying very seriously. My life savings is on the line. I should not have to fight with you and be hassled to get what is mine. I am giving you a fair warning. If you don’t have my money on Monday morning, I will call the police.”

“Whoa Brad, please don’t threaten me. There is no need for the police to get involved. I am simply asking for a little more time. Can you afford to give me the courtesy?”

“I already extended my deadline until Monday to help you out and to give you the benefit of the doubt. Monday is my limit, so if you even think about disappearing, I will come after you myself. I want my Goddamn money, so stop dicking me around!”

“Okay, okay. Calm down. There is no reason to be irrational. You will get your cash.”

Marco’s answer was the phone slamming in his ear.

To say he was having an atrocious day was an understatement. It was one thing after another. His life was spiraling out of control, and he would do anything to turn it around.

Diana continued to track Marco, and he was back in Delaware again. It was incredibly shady for him to drive from Delaware to South Philly and back in one day. She was standing across the street from the location listed on her phone and spotted Marco’s car parked in the lot. Diana parked her car a block away to remain incognito. At least if he saw her on the street, he would not pay too much attention since she was supposed to be in Philadelphia. She still took the precaution of wearing a big-brimmed sun hat and sunglasses with her tee-shirt and shorts. Her hair was piled up underneath the cap.

She blended in with any other vacationer. Marco’s car appeared to be parked in an office building lot. There was no sign outside advertising the business. The only indication that the business existed was a street number on the outside of the building.

She drove to the beach house in a hurry and fired up her computer to do some research before Marco decided to go home. While she waited for the computer to boot up, she poured two glasses of wine for when Marco returned. She wanted it to look like she was doing nothing more than anxiously waiting for him to arrive. The computer was ready, so Diana pulled up a database for commercial property owners in Sussex County, Delaware. The building where she spotted Marco’s car listed several names. She narrowed it down even further to the office building parking lot. As she browsed the names, one jumped out at her clear as day, Wayne Bruce Holdings. Diana was unable to find any information as to the nature of the business. There were no listings on the internet when she searched for the company. It was evident that customers were not seeking Marco to conduct business since he was virtually impossible to find. He was using the space for his own purposes.

After further digging, she discovered a holding company by the same name in Claymont, Delaware. The company was established the year Marco graduated college. How interesting that he used Bruce Wayne’s name from Batman and flipped the first and last names. Very clever indeed.

She asked out loud, “What exactly are you up to, Marco?”

Diana searched the advantages of setting up a business in Delaware, which revealed that it was an ideal location because of the significant tax breaks, and any out of state business would not be subject to tax. Marco had to be doing it for reasons other than tax breaks. There was no doubt that he was hiding something significant. After looking up the rules for holding companies, it was clear that the disclosure of owner names was not mandatory. Setting up the business in Delaware was undoubtedly decided with a specific purpose in mind.

She recalled their Bermuda vacation and how Marco left her while she was shopping. It seemed a little shady at the time, but he said it was only for a couple of hours. It didn’t make sense to her for the simple reason that their careers demanded most of their idle time.

Any free time together was precious, so they usually spent it together. Diana was skeptical and a little hurt at the time but preferred not to argue. It was easier to keep the peace rather than ruin their vacation even though boyfriends usually didn’t ditch their girlfriends while shopping in a foreign country. It was apparent that his shopping trip was a cover for something else.

She had a nagging suspicion that he had a side business that he did not want her to know about or discover. Marco must be involved in some sort of illegal activity since it was clearly something he needed to hide. Where would you keep illegal money that you didn’t want your girlfriend or anyone else to find? If it were legal money, there would be no need for a foreign account. All clues led her to the logical conclusion that Marco would be leaving the country at some point to collect all of the money he accumulated in the Bermuda account. Diana didn’t need to guess that it would be millions of dollars. There would be no reason to go outside of the United States if he was saving chump change.

Marco must be skimming money or stealing money and transferring it to Bermuda. She was hoping that she was part of his escape plan once he decided to bolt. After all, wasn’t she the love of his life? Why else did he propose to her unless it was all part of some grand scheme? Their relationship seemed very genuine; however, Diana didn’t know what to believe or where she fit into his complicated double life. Maybe their relationship was another cover. Her head was reeling from her recent findings. The entire scenario seemed very far-fetched; nevertheless, it was the only story that made any sense to her. She hoped to God Marco wasn’t the person stealing from Dom. There was nowhere in the world far enough that he could hide to get away from him. It would certainly explain his erratic behavior lately.

Diana jumped and was brought back to reality when she heard Marco’s car pull into the driveway. Regrettably, she was out of time to investigate. She quickly cleared her history and shut down her laptop. There would be time later to uncover the rest of the story. Her job required a tremendous amount of patience, so waiting would not pose a problem.

Marco was pleasantly surprised to see Diana’s car in the driveway, and he was happily whistling as he inserted his key into the door.

When he asked her to accompany him, she told him in no uncertain terms that she was under a deadline and could not make it until the weekend. He opened the door and walked into the kitchen as she smiled and handed him a glass of wine.

“Hey, Babe. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see you here. A guy could get used to this special treatment. I thought you were under a deadline and would be delayed until the weekend.”

“Well, as luck would have it, I was given an extension, so I wasted no time joining you before my editor changed her mind.”

“Having you here made my day and is a great surprise. I love spending time with you.”

Diana was certain that he meant every word, and there was no doubt in her mind that he loved her. She thanked him with a kiss and suggested they go out to celebrate their extra time together. Marco jumped at the chance to make his day better.

They walked to the Rusty Rudder since the weather was pleasant and enjoyed a meal with the bay’s ambiance and a beautiful sunset. It was a perfect night for a date, especially with the band playing. It was difficult not to be in a good mood. Diana shared Marco’s love for Dewey Beach. They preferred to sit at the bar and talk to other couples who were out for the night. Tonight, was no exception. The couple they met was from Maryland and was on vacation. They shared stories of their travels to California as the drinks and conversation flowed easily. Tequila was their drink of choice for the evening.

Marco had more than enough to drink as he was feeling rather festive. Once he began to stagger, Diana called for a ride to drive them back to the house. There was no way Marco would be able to walk home in his condition. He couldn’t walk in a straight line if his life depended on it. She smiled and tipped the driver as Marco got out of the car, talking like a drunken sailor. He was yelling for everyone to come outside and party. Diana told him to quiet down before he woke up the entire neighborhood with his big mouth. She put her arm around him and helped him upstairs. It was a struggle since his arm was wrapped so tightly around her shoulders, and he was taking full advantage of leaning on her. It was a vigorous workout going up two flights of stairs, particularly when she had been drinking too. She was in much better shape than he was at the moment. It would have been so much easier to dump him on the couch, but Marco insisted on sleeping in his bed.

There were a few scary moments when she felt that they would tumble backward to their death, but they finally made it to their destination safely. He fell into bed the second she got him there. As soon as Marco was safely under the covers, Diana collapsed on the floor and rested to catch her breath. She was sweaty and exhausted and promised herself to get back in shape. Within ten minutes, Marco was snoring like an angry grizzly bear. Diana quickly snuck off to the bedroom on the first floor that Marco used as an office. His laptop was sitting on the desk. She lifted it open, and the screen turned on. Of course, it was password protected.

Oh my God! Her heart was beating so loudly. She had no idea how much time she had to work with before he woke up. To add to her stress, she now had a password to crack. She typed in Diana and was given a quick denial. Dammit to hell. Bastard! Why would he choose her name? She was only the love of his life. Okay, there were two more tries. Naturally, he had a lockout set on his computer after three unsuccessful attempts. Next, she typed in his mother’s first name. Stacie. Wrong again!! Does this man love anyone? It was frustrating and infuriating.

She felt herself breaking out into a cold sweat from the immense anxiety. There was only one last attempt before she was locked out. All of her efforts would be wasted over a stupid password. Okay, it was time to brainstorm. Maybe it had something to do with Batman. Think! His company name was Wayne Enterprises. She started typing and then quickly hit the backspace button. The answer finally hit her like a ton of bricks. Why hadn’t she thought of it before? It was so obvious. She typed in her last guess, and her finger hovered above the return button as if she was trying to stop a bomb from detonating. Here goes nothing. She hit the button a little harder than she intended and held her breath. A sigh of relief escaped her as the window immediately opened to the desktop. She was in! His password was Nadia. It was comforting to know that his sister meant something to him, after all. Now it was time to focus on the job at hand since she had already wasted precious time.

Diana fumbled in her pocket for her flash drive. The files were downloading, and the computer notified her that they would be ready in ten minutes. Of course, it was going to be the longest ten minutes of her life. She began to relax and took a couple of deep breaths. Her neck and back were tight with tension. She moved her head in a slow circle to loosen up the muscles. Everything was going according to plan. Marco’s cough interrupted her tranquility. Shit! She was frantically pacing back and forth as if the computer would work faster if she were in a rush. What the hell was she going to do now? With any luck, he would fall back asleep. He was such a pain in the ass!

She silently waited as her heart pounded in her chest as if it were trying to escape.

Diana’s face suddenly felt hot as if she were flushed. A funny feeling came over her, and her stomach started to hurt. She felt like she was having trouble swallowing and was experiencing shortness of breath. If Diana didn’t know better, she would think she was going to have a heart attack, but she experienced panic attacks in the past. They showed up at the most inopportune moments, and this was one of them. How could Marco possibly be stirring? He drank enough for an elephant to pass out until morning. God Dammit!

“Diana?”

She involuntarily held her breath again as she decided not to answer. Maybe Marco would roll over and fall back to sleep. He didn’t call her again, so she was happy that she ignored him. Five minutes left until the files were copied. She decided to tiptoe up the stairs to see if she could hear him snoring. As her foot hit the landing at the top, she felt as if someone were watching her. It was such a creepy sensation, and she could feel the hairs on the back of her neck stick up. Her imagination was getting the best of her, along with the night of drinking. Now she was acting paranoid. It was so dark. She swore the hall light was on when she went downstairs. Diana moved slowly so that she didn’t make any noise. All of a sudden, she felt hot breath

on her neck. This is ridiculous. I am acting like a frightened teenager. She took another step, and an arm snaked around her waist. Marco whispered in her ear as he kept a tight hold on her.

“You have some explaining to do, my love.”

“Why? What’s wrong with you?” Diana broke free from his hold. “You scared the hell out of me!”

“I want to know what you are doing sneaking around in the middle of the night?”

“Why would I sneak around in my own house? I went downstairs to make sure the doors were locked.”

“Do I need to remind you that all of the doors can remain unlocked, and no one will break into our house? We are far away from the city. I refuse to go back to bed without you.”

As they entered the room, he pulled back the covers and gave her no choice but to join him. She hesitated for a moment and then surrendered by slipping under the covers. His timing could not have been any worse. Now she needed to wait until he was sleeping again so that she could sneak out of bed and retrieve her flash drive. Marco was so quiet that she never even heard footsteps approaching. It was hard to tell if he thought she was snooping or simply wanted her company in bed. She found it difficult to shake her fear, but she began to relax after several minutes. Now the only task left to do was wait until the perfect time to slip out of the room before he figured out what she was actually doing. God knows what would happen if he caught her.

The sun awakened Diana in the morning by shining directly into her eyes. At least it was a sign of a beautiful day that should not be squandered by sleeping. She yawned and stretched lazily and then jolted upright when she remembered last night. The flash drive! Oh

no. To make things worse, Marco was not sleeping beside her. Where was he? She started to panic as bile rose into her throat and threatened to come out. The next sounds she heard were a toilet flushing and water running from the shower. Thank God. Her stomach settled once she realized a catastrophe was momentarily avoided since Marco was in the bathroom. This meant that she still had enough time to get to the computer. The last thing Diana wanted or needed was for Marco to discover that she was meddling in his business and trying to dig up dirt on him. He would feel betrayed if he knew what she was doing.

Diana jumped out of bed so quickly that she stumbled as the sheet wrapped around her ankle, like a snake pulling her to the floor. She freed her leg and sprinted to Marco’s office as fast as her legs would carry her, hoping that he had not checked his laptop before using the bathroom. If that were the case, he certainly would have noticed a flash drive sticking out of the USB. She ejected the flash drive quickly, so no evidence existed of her tampering. Once she returned to the safety of their bedroom, she slipped it into her purse. Mission accomplished, although her cover was nearly blown. Diana bolted back to the bed and flew under the covers, pretending that she was sound asleep. As far as she was concerned, Marco had no idea that all of his computer files were compromised. Diana would explore the files when she was alone with no chance of Marco disturbing her.

Speak of the devil. As if on cue, he opened the bathroom door, and she heard his towel drop unceremoniously to the floor. Her ears were straining to hear him, but she heard nothing as he silently slid into bed beside her. She figured he was looking to get lucky, but nothing. He was definitely beside her. What was he doing? She could feel him looking at her even with her eyes closed. Oh God, he knows! What was he going to do about it? He could snap her neck without her being able to defend herself. Her entire body tensed in fear and apprehension of his next move. Diana refused to wait for her fate.

Enough was enough. She opened her eyes to find him lovingly smiling down at her.

“Well, good morning, beautiful. I was watching you sleep like an angel, but angels don’t have bad dreams. Your breathing quickened, and your body tensed as if you were having a nightmare. I was going to play with your hair to calm you.”

“Good morning. I had some crazy dreams. They probably had something to do with the amount of alcohol I consumed last night. I may have overdone it a tad. How is your head feeling?”

“Well, now that you mention it….”

She slapped him on the arm. “Marco, you are such a pig! I meant the head on your neck. It must hurt from drinking.”

They both burst out into a fit of laughter, which turned into a tickle fight. Marco disappeared under the covers.

The lovely day would have to wait a little longer since Marco had plans of his own.

A day or two after Diana returned to Philadelphia, a former colleague contacted her to see if she was available to meet for lunch. The two of them met the next day at a local cafe. After catching up on their careers and personal lives, Kelsey leaned in and told Diana that she was working on something that could be big. She received a lead from a source about a possible scam involving Bitcoin investments.

Kelsey went on to explain that Bitcoin was a cryptocurrency investment. It was digital money, which meant that it was easy to scam people since Bitcoin wasn’t protected by the SEC, as stocks were. She asked if Diana would be interested in taking over the investigation since her workload was too big to give it the proper attention. The only catch was that Diana would have to submit the final piece to Kelsey’s editor.

Diana was intrigued and very eager to work on this project but asked to sleep on it to look into it further. They both agreed that the subject matter was too sensitive to discuss with anyone, including Marco. It was necessary to do everything within her power to keep their work confidential so that it would not be compromised. There was a potential to bring down a swindler in the process. It definitely would not be a challenge to keep information to herself since she and Marco were putting in long hours these days and not seeing much of each other.

Diana began researching later that night to familiarize herself with Bitcoin. Her online fact-finding uncovered a potential get-rich-quick investment opportunity. Someone promised these unsuspecting individuals large investment returns with little or no risk. Instead of seeing red flags, these blue-collar workers saw dollar signs. Their greed clouded their judgment. The investment scheme involved deception in convincing someone to invest money that would be pocketed instead of invested.

Diana called Kelsey immediately. “Count me in. I think this story is much bigger than both of us initially thought.”

In the meantime, Diana took a moment to look at the flash drive of the files she copied from Marco’s computer. She had been so busy that this was her first chance to look at the contents. There was a folder full of articles about the development company responsible for the trailer fire that killed Marco’s mother. There were documents on every project that the developer worked on. There was a database with a bunch of contacts, which was completely normal in his line of business. She looked through the names, but nothing sounded familiar. She also saw an investment spreadsheet. At first glance, nothing jumped out at her as suspicious. Diana began to feel guilty for doubting Marco.

She was about to shut down her computer when something caught her eye. Wait a second. She may have stumbled upon something. His calendar listed a reminder for a seminar at the Wyndham in three days. He told her that he was booked with client meetings all week. There was no mention of a seminar. She decided to attend out of curiosity. One way or another, she would find out what Marco was actually doing during his work hours. His lying side certainly was not attractive.

Since Marco still hadn’t returned home, Diana continued with her Bitcoin research. Her personal interest in this particular assignment went much deeper than a colleague asking for her assistance. When she was in elementary school, a boy bullied her by using intimidation. She retaliated by making it very clear that he would not get away with it. Ever since that day, Diana had issues with people who thought it was acceptable to steal something that was not rightfully theirs. It gave her great satisfaction to know that she was responsible for helping take down the person responsible for stealing titles to various homes not belonging to him. Now it was time to destroy the mastermind tricking people in order to steal their hard-earned money.

Diana posted a message on countless town and county public social media pages in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. She requested that anyone who felt they had been scammed with a

Bitcoin investment or experiencing difficulty receiving any cash to contact her by sending a private message. It was a tedious task, but social media was a powerful tool. There was no guarantee that her plan would be successful, but it was certainly worth a try.

Surprisingly, the wait was short. There was a message the next morning to contact a woman who lost a great deal of money. She left no details but did leave a phone number.

Diana called the number and waited for the person on the other end to answer. The phone rang four times, and then an older woman answered. Diana told her that she was covering a story about Bitcoin scams and trying to catch the person responsible for stealing money.

The woman sounded unsure, and her voice shook with fear. She asked if Diana would be willing to meet her in person.

“You name the time and the place, and I will meet you there alone.”

A few hours after Diana arrived at a charming home near West Chester University in Pennsylvania. She knocked on the door and heard three locks unlatch before the door opened. You can never be too safe these days. The woman must live alone.

“Come in, dear. I made you some tea and cake.” “You are too kind, Mrs. .”

“Please call me Debbie.”

“Of course. You are so sweet to bake a cake for me. It wasn’t necessary.”

“Nonsense. I love to bake, and it would be rude to entertain a guest without feeding them. You look like you could use a few

pounds. I am sure you are very busy in your profession with no time to eat.”

Diana took a bite of the cake. Debbie was an excellent baker.

They ate cake and drank tea while exchanging pleasantries. Once Diana felt that Debbie was comfortable in her company, she sat a little closer and got down to business. “Please tell me about your experience. I promise to leave your name out of the article once it goes to print. I would love to help find whoever did this to you.”

“Thank you, dear. You are very thoughtful and sweet. This awful nightmare began when my son attended a real estate seminar. After the seminar was over, the man in charge approaches my son to let him know that he sees a special quality in him. Now that he has his full attention, he continues by stating that he has an amazing offer for him if he is interested. He invites my son to an elegant lunch. During the lunch, he tells him about this once in a lifetime investment opportunity in Bitcoin. The only catch was that there was no time to think it over. This was an exclusive deal and the time to act was right away.”

“I see,” Diana replied. “So, did your son agree to give him any money?”

Debbie sadly shook her head. “Yes, he could not pass up on the offer. He showed me the digital wallet, and his money grew just like the man from the seminar promised. I was so impressed with the results that I decided to invest $10,000. I live on a fixed income, so the idea of enjoying a more comfortable lifestyle appealed to me. My son received a family and friends’ bonus when I invested.”

Diana was listening attentively. “Well, it seems like everything was going smoothly.”

Debbie elaborated, “According to our wallets, we both appeared to be prospering for a lengthy period of time. I began to question my

decision when I was given excuses continually and could not access my cash. Every occasion where my son or I asked for a sum of money, the investment advisor had a reason for us to leave it alone. Finally, we put our foot down and insisted on cashing out. The day after our request, we both received an email with a link. Both of us clicked on the link to confirm our cash-out information. It listed the bank and account numbers to transfer the cash. As far as we were concerned, the information was legitimate. The next day, our digital wallets had no money. There was no need to panic immediately since we had both cashed out. It made perfect sense for the digital wallet to be empty. Our bank account balances should have increased. Three days later, our bank accounts still showed no additional money. I called my advisor to see what in the world was going on. After telling him what happened, he seemed surprised and informed me that he was not the sender of the email that my son and I received. The tables were turned on us since whatever link we clicked on was supposedly a scam. He made me feel stupid and told me that I enabled someone else to take my money. He made me feel like I did something wrong and that it was my fault that my money was gone. I know from the bottom of my heart that he took my money. Unfortunately, I have no proof. It is his word against mine.

Who is going to believe an old woman? The authorities would only think I was senile.”

Diana had a very concerned look on her face. She felt nothing but compassion and empathy for the woman sitting across from her. “Oh Deb, I am so sorry.”

“I cannot wrap my head around it. I refuse to accept what happened to me. There have to be others out there who experienced the same thing. Maybe if we all come forward, we can catch this guy. He introduced the hoax as a family and friends deal. It was nothing more than an elaborate scam. I lost my entire life savings. All the apologies in the world cannot fix it.”

Diana felt so bad for Debbie and was helpless to do anything at the moment. She looked into Debbie’s eyes and put a hand over hers. “Debbie, it is terrible that you and your family lost money.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to get your money back, but I can try my best to apprehend the person who did this to you.”

“Make him pay. Honey, I want you to demolish his life. He should have to suffer.”

When Diana returned home later that night, she was alone again.

Marco texted her that he would be home later than usual, so she used the time to do more investigating. It appeared that the real reason people were interested in Bitcoin was that everyone else was investing.

It appeared to be a Ponzi scheme. This guy was robbing one person to pay another. The scheme revolved around the process of paying old investors with the money received from new investors.

Once he hooked a few investors with the promise of fantastic returns on investments, the process was repeated. The funds from the first investors were used to bankroll a nice car, suits, offices, and maybe even an expensive watch. These props were used to con the next round of investors. It was important for the guy to play the part of a very successful businessman to entice more investors. The next time, he takes a slice off the top for himself and uses the remainder to pay off the first rung of investors with some initial returns.

But as the cycle continues, it eventually gets more complicated.

Earlier tiers of investors will become suspicious if they don’t continue to see returns. New investors will want their initial investment back, and the schemer will have to appease them with regular returns. This means that new investors will have to be added to the Ponzi scheme continuously to pay all the previous tiers. The schemer is continually under an enormous amount of pressure to keep adding investors, and one person can only do so much. He either has accomplices or is running a legitimate business on the side. It only delays the inevitable, and it is virtually impossible to continue the facade long term. His world will eventually come tumbling down. It is overwhelming to be the mastermind behind the whole facade and repeatedly shuffle money from one place to another.

Some victims make out pretty well in a Ponzi scheme. Although later investors have a high probability of losing money, the early investors can thrive. Their recommendations are precisely what helps sustain the scheme. Diana was thankful that Marco ran a successful

business and that he did it the right way. The pressure of running a Ponzi scheme seemed to be detrimental to everyone involved.

Diana couldn’t fathom how easily these victims fell prey to a scheme that seemed too good to be true. She followed the popular saying that if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. These poor people were taken advantage of and should have been suspicious of how steady and consistent their returns were. Their investments were always gaining positive returns, while real investment returns tend to fluctuate.

A reputable financial advisor would advise that the best protection is a portfolio with diversification. Another saying of not keeping all of your eggs in one basket also applied. Each investment should account for no more than a quarter of your whole portfolio.

In the investor’s defense, it is the obligation of financial advisors and investment brokers to be honest and trustworthy. It is not a common practice for them to exploit their clients for personal gain. To do so breached an adviser’s fiduciary duty and was disloyal. Surely it was the reason laws were in place to protect consumers from being defrauded.

This sly shyster was using cryptocurrency since there were fewer regulations. According to Diana’s research, transactions in virtual currencies had excellent privacy benefits and hid illicit activities better than transactions involving real money. She could see no reason for choosing Bitcoin besides illegal activity. It was obvious to her and raised several red flags. Regrettably, the poor people investing decided to ignore any red flags and found themselves entangled in the spiral of greed.

After interviewing several others, she found that there was a pattern of embezzlement and defrauding of clients with every person. The investment broker wasn’t even honest enough to use his real name. It was apparent to Diana that this grand scheme was very well

thought out and deliberate. There was no question in her mind that this guy was deliberately trying to get away with duping these hard- working individuals by draining savings accounts that took years of blood, sweat, and tears to accumulate. The lack of remorse bothered her even more, especially since the crime was repeated consistently.

Most likely, the type of person Diana was looking for was a sociopath. A sociopath had a small conscience yet not big enough to stop his behavior. Something must have happened in his life, affecting his ability to empathize. He saw himself as a victim and used manipulation to get what he wanted.

A big red flag for these investors should have been how difficult it was for them to receive payments other than quarterly dividend payments. The dividends acted as hush money to keep the investors from taking their money back. They should have been suspicious of how difficult it was to cash out on their investment. The cell phone app falsely showed the investment to be secure when nothing could be further from the truth. They trusted whoever they were dealing with and liked him as a person. She had to admit that this guy was a master of double-dealing.

He was out there somewhere living off of money that did not rightfully belong to him. While he enjoyed fancy restaurants, cars, homes, trips, and other luxuries, these poor people were left with nothing. A chill ran up her spine when she realized the man in question could be someone like Marco. She shrugged off the chill and continued to work late into the night.

The last thing Marco needed in his life right now was Brad’s aggravation. It was time to get rid of him for good. He was like a pesky fly. You tried to swat him, and he kept coming back for more. The only way to get rid of it was to squash it. He called repeatedly and required reassurance. It was mentally draining to deal with him. After all, keeping Sal happy was becoming a full-time job. Marco could not deal with two people who needed his full attention. There were not enough hours in the day.

In Brad’s defense, he had no idea that the wallet app he looked at faithfully on his phone every day was fake, and that Marco had already spent his hard-earned money. Marco had two options available for dealing with Brad. He could divert other funds from new investors to pay him off once and for all. This option was not appealing to Marco because Brad was such a pain in the ass. Option two was more tempting and would cost zero dollars. Talk about a win-win situation.

Option two was to fool Brad into thinking somebody hacked his wallet; therefore, they stole his money. To make it look like an outside party compromised Brad’s money, Marco created a “phishing scam” by sending Brad an email that appeared to be authentic. The account number and personal information matched up to seem even more realistic. Karma was magnificent, and Brad was about to find out what happened when you messed with the bull.

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