Fraudsters don’t deserve to get off lightly. Two heartening cases show that often they don’t.
They say that living well is the best form of revenge. However, I rather believe in Ivana Trump’s dictum: “don’t get mad, get everything”. Two recent cases illustrate my point.
The first involves a young Canadian musician called Eric Abramovitz. In 2014 he won a scholarship that would have given him the chance to study under Yehuda Gilad, one of the best clarinet teachers in the world. Indeed, Gilad was so well regarded that studying with him would have been likely to have landed Abramovitz “a lucrative spot in a symphony after graduation”, says Aaron Mack on Slate.
Abramovitz never saw the email from Gilad informing him of the opportunity, however, because his then girlfriend, Jennifer Lee, allegedly hacked into his laptop. Distraught at the prospect of her beau leaving, the lovesick minx “used Abramovitz’s email address to reject the offer”. She then created a fake email address under Gilad’s name and sent Abramovitz a message informing him he had been rejected. The deception only came to light years later when Abramovitz auditioned for Gilad again.
Other people might have simply walked away, cursing the day they met her, but Abramovitz is made of sterner stuff. Angry at what he considered “a simultaneous stab to the back and the heart”, Abramovitz pursued her in the Canadian courts, says Leyland Cecco in The Guardian. Last month an Ontario judge agreed that she had exercised “despicable interference”. He awarded Abramovitz C$375,000 (£215,000) in compensation.
The pursuit of a scammer
But at least Ms Lee isn’t behind bars – unlike Luis Nobre and his chums. In 2011 shipbuilder Edward Heerema was persuaded by the “charming and loquacious” Nobre and his associates to hand over €100m he had raised to build a ship, says John Gapper in the FT. Heerema thought he was investing, but the entire thing was a fiction. Nobre plundered the account, making 40 transfers totalling €16m in the space of three days.
Nobre’s greed proved his undoing as his account activity triggered a security alert at the bank, which alerted the police. Quickly realising that he had been scammed, Heerema hired a top legal firm to pursue Nobre and the other members of his team. They now expect to recover most of the money that had been lost, but Heerema is not content with that.
Spending “millions on an array of accountants and lawyers to uncover the scam”, he has brought several private prosecutions that have resulted in several members of the team going to jail. The defence lawyers have denounced this as an abuse of the law courts for seeking “revenge”, but Heerema insists he is not bitter and simply wanted to stop others being hurt in the same way.
“You tell nobody and you feel ashamed and you keep it silent,” he says of others in his position. “We decided to fight from a strong sense of justice… Other people were defrauded of smaller amounts and have terrible stories. I thought, ‘If we don’t expose this, it will go on and on and on’.”
Tabloid money… the cleaner gifted an envelope stuffed with kindness
• Spare a teaspoonful of sympathy for Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, says Adam Helliker in the Sunday Express. Despite their stellar celebrity status, the pair are having the devil’s own job of selling two of their holiday homes. Their secluded estate in Mallorca, complete with Donald Trump scarecrow in the vineyard, has been on the market for four years, in which time the asking price has fallen from €50m to €36m.
It’s the same story with their Georgian mansion in Bermuda, which has languished on the market at $10m, despite boasting a “commercial-size laundry room”. And the gilded pair still have a house in Westchester, New York state, a ski chalet in Quebec, and a property in Mumbles, Wales.
• The kind students who raised enough money to send Bristol University cleaner Herman Gordon to visit his family in Jamaica was one of the feel-good stories of the year, says Lorraine Kelly in The Sun. Gordon was beside himself with happiness and cried tears of joy when he opened his gift envelope to find it stuffed with cash for the trip.
Students said he brightened their lives and they simply wanted to give him something in return. Gordan had connections to the Windrush generation and couldn’t afford the trip. “This little shaft of light gives me hope for the future and shows there is still a lot of decency in the world.” Gordon also now knows that he makes a real difference and is valued – “and you cannot put a price on that”.
• Defence secretary Gavin Williamson was “a stupid boy” for trying to blackmail the prime minister into spending more on the military, says Richard Littlejohn in the Daily Mail. “But he has a point.” The defence budget has been slashed to such an extent that the army is thinking of buying inflatable tanks to fool the enemy. They’d be better off commandeering Corporal Jones’s butcher’s van from Dad’s Army and issuing bayonets fixed to broomsticks.
Donald Trump is even worried we might not be able to meet our commitments to Nato. Still, a solution may be at hand. The army is working on invisibility cloaks for soldiers. That way at least when our American allies asks where our troops are, Britain can say they are invisible.