Stickman Readers' Submissions January 20th, 2009

Baby Bernie

Watching the news unfold lately is a terrible thing. The economy, Gaza, Somalia pirates, box jelly fish in Phuket, The amount of bad news is endless and there is no sense of dwelling on it. But I was just thinking if anyone else has noticed
a similarity between the beauties of Thailand and Bernie Madoff?

I was eating lunch today with my best friend, an American who has been here for ten years, about the same amount of time that I have. Having lived in New York City for twenty years I feel that I have become inured to the local sirens of romance.

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Those screaming noises that sound and ring in your head and / or a group of sea nymphs who by their sweet singing lured mariners to destruction on the rocks surrounding their island. I apologize for saying this as I am so annoyed when people
write in and say, ‘Let me tell you a little about myself. I am young, handsome, muscular and intelligent’. Yeah sure, who cares?

My pal Henry fell right in love with one of the first girls that he met. Okay, if he is happy, good for him. He gave her money to buy some land from her mother who never recorded the deed or sale and when she passed, the sister was left the
land that Henry had supposedly paid for. There was no getting it back.

‘I need to have a car,’ Henry’s girl said. ‘I can find a good used Toyota for 400,000 baht.’ Henry gave her the money and she walked right into the showroom and bought a new Toyota right off the floor and
proudly drove it home for Henry to see. He was in a bit of a shock and also a pickle now as the car was in her name, he could not sell it and still owed another 400,000 baht on it. What did he do? He paid it off.

Money invested in a romance. But the romance paid dividends; the girl was young and attractive and Henry wasn’t.

He had invested and it seemed to be paying off. This past year he went to America and she wanted to go with him so they were married, America not being an easy country for Thai girls to visit.

‘Christ! You’re getting married? Isn’t that a bit like telling me you have a mouse in your kitchen and you are going out to buy a shotgun? Henry became enraged at my audacity. ‘It’s not your business. I
love her.’

Well, he’s right. He had reason to love her just as Bernie’s investors loved him, getting solid returns year after year even though deep in their heart it seemed a bit too good to be true, all that cash rolling into their bank
accounts and all that love and affection from a girl half your age.

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Just think of Stephen Greenspan, the clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado, one of the world’s leading experts on financial scams and the author of “Annals of Gullibility: Why We Get Duped and How to
Avoid it.”

Prof Greenspan lost a big percentage of his retirement savings investing with Bernie so we have to have some sympathy for these poor guys who keep writing heart rendering submissions into Stick listing a litany of red flags, lost finances
and scams and then saying something silly like, ‘I consider myself to be street savvy.’ Was that a joke last week or what?

The poor expats here in Thailand and Bernie’s marks, as con men call their victims – thought that they were on to a good thing, that they had the inside tract. It’s the basis of all con tricks and let’s face it;
we are all considered to be marks here just by the color of our skin. And when a twenty-year old girl puts her arms around your old shapeless body, all of a sudden you are a legend in your own mind, the whole deal sure sounds good even if there
are a few nagging doubts, you just invest a little more. Pot protection I think it was called in an excellent Stickman submission a few weeks ago.

All that love, attention and affection that is pouring over you must count for something and it does. It’s her pot protection.

As a con man in David Mamet’s film The House of Games explains: “It’s called a confidence game. Why? Because you give me your confidence? —- No. Because I give you mine.”

Because she looks into your eyes, holds you and says she will be yours forever; she surrenders her entire being to you, gives you her very body and her youth, just as Bernie continued to pour out ten to fifteen percent to his investors year
after year.

Too good to be true? Yes, but we all go on anyway. Last year my dear neighbor Henry gave his now wife 500,000 baht to purchase land up north; he was going to build her a shop house to keep her comfortable in case anything ever happened to
him. A week later she comes back with no land title and no money. ‘What happened? I asked Henry.

‘I don’t know? Every time I go to ask her she just bursts out crying and I don’t want to upset her.’

‘At least you don’t have to build her a house now that she has no land.’

‘No, I still have to do that,’ he said. Eventually we did find out what happened to the money as Bernie’s investors also found out. It’s tucked away someplace and some of it has also been spent.

The final cap on this story is that Henry's wife / girl lived with him for four entire years before she admitted to having two kids, aged nine and ten and they were due to go to school as the sister could not take care of them anymore
in Issan; it had to be a boarding school.

Henry, no slouch in the good heart department put up 200,000 for the first year which soon grew into 300,000 due to school books, uniforms and so on. The odd thing was that Henry had to send the checks to Bangkok and not Issan. ‘That’s
because the owner of the school lives in Bangkok. ‘Don’t worry, we will get plenty of receipts for everything.’ And soon their fax machine spit out paper after school paper, all in Thai just as Bernie’s investors received
monthly statements explaining everything — so did Henry have written explanations.

But no scheme lasts forever and Bernie got busted as did Henry’s wife. Oddly they are both still around.

Henry’s wife said that her kids had two weeks off from school and she wanted to drive up to visit them. Henry wanted to get away from Phuket for a bit and decided to go for the ride even though his wife insisted he stay home. They
did not have to pick up the children from school as they had come home already. Okay, Henry took the family out for dinner, the kids to some small zoo and on a river trip.

Henry had picked up some Thai language skills and being a nice man and interested in the children’s welfare asked how they were doing in school.

‘What school?’ they said. It turns out they never went. They were just sitting around the house riding the pigs and harvesting rice.

Henry was really mad and wanted to know where the money went just as Bernie’s investors are wondering and Henry got confused answers.

‘I gave it to my sister. I lent it to my friends. I lost some of it. Don’t worry; my sister will pay you back.’

It was unintelligible nonsense. Bernie’s investors got the same baloney.

But Henry accidently found out where some of the money went. Still arguing after returning to Phuket, his wife took her car and drove to Patpong. She had a night out, lost her pocketbook and the car would not start.

Henry called me on the phone at one in the morning. ‘Can I borrow your car and jumper cables?’

‘Of course you can but do you really want your wife driving home at this hour? Henry said that she sounded dazed and confused.

‘Tell her to take a tuk-tuk back.’ It made sense and he called her at the payphone as she had lost her mobile also. The tuk-tuks wanted a thousand baht, enough to take a taxi to the airport and then take one back so she hired
a motorbike driver for 700 baht. The next day Henry had to call to cancel her credit cards. There was a fifteen thousand baht charge on one already but if it was her that used the card or someone else no one knows.

Why she was carrying around five credit cards is anyone’s guess but she gave the bank books to Henry so he could make the calls.

An interesting thing happened. He discovered that she had squirreled away more than a million baht between the accounts. At least now he knows more than Madoff’s clients, not that it will do him any good either.

For now, Madoff is free on $14 million bail while waiting to see if a judge agrees to the prosecutor’s bid to have him jailed after they claimed he violated his bail terms by sending watches and jewellery worth more than $1.4 million
to relatives so both Bernie and Henry’s wife are walking around with access to stolen cash.

The final straw, for me at least, was when we went out for lunch today to a new beautiful seaside restaurant on Chalong Bay.

The scenery was stunning and complain as I may, it’s really beautiful here. Henry and his wife were seated across from me and I took out my camera. ‘Move together, I want to take a few pictures.’

‘No’, Henry’s wife said.

Okay, I shrugged my shoulders.

‘Did you find a girl for yourself yet,’ she said, changing the subject.

‘No, can you help me?’

‘No, I want to look for myself.’

‘Boy or girl? I said jokingly.

‘I look for man for myself.’

Right there and then my heart went out for Henry, the poor guy. But the other night on CNN, I was watching a story about Bernie’s investors. It was too sad and I turned it off.

This is the end of the story. Henry is f##ked and so are Bernie’s investors. The only thing that I really decided was that I was going to call Henry’s wife — Baby Bernie.

Stickman's thoughts:

Nicely told, another tale of wow…

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