Tuesday, July 7, 2015

USFIA Update: Denial in Spain (and fun Spanish Vocabulary)

As previously mentioned, Spain Official Agency CNMV (La Comisión Nacional del Mercado de Valores trans: National Commission on Markets and Values/Investments) issued a warning against USFIA (i.e. AFG / Gemcoin ) back on May 18th.

In Spain, such illegal unregistered investments, basically HYIP, are known as chiringuito financiero or "financial snack bars".  Chiringuito is an open air snack bar often found on Spanish beaches serving snacks and drinks where you order from a counter and find your own seats. Some are even mobile on a tricycle. Thus, a chringuito financiero is a ramshackle unregistered investment, often without even a physical presence, and only exists via phone calls, email, and websites.  And USFIA (AFG / Gemcoin) was identified as a chringuito financiero.

Normally that's hardly noticeable, as the commission issues dozens of warnings every year. However, one of the comments was quite interesting, on a newspaper called "ValenciaPlaza".

Translation: Israel G. Gomez wrote That is not the website of USFIA.  I see they have contrasted the news and have little idea of ​​what they say, deplorable!

So what website was CNMV talking about? "Usfiamlm.com"

FWIW, usfiamlm.com is now a parked Godaddy domain.  Well, if it wasn't guilty, why is it parked so early? It's not as if Guardia (Spanish Police) raided it, right?

Monday, July 6, 2015

USFIA Update: Gemcoin ATMs (probably not) and warning in Spain about it being unlicensed investment

NOTE: Previous coverage on USFIA can be found here

MLMSkeptic has a special disdain for someone scamming their own kind in order to get ahead, which is pretty much every scammer out there, when the truth is often in plain view, albeit the view may have been distracted.

A certain Gemcoin promoter online claimed that Gemcoin ATMs , THOUSANDS of them, will soon be distributed around the world, so people can get cash through their Gemcoin account. As an example, they showed two ATMs allegedly with Gemcoin listed next to the typical ATM logos like VISA / MASTERCARD / AMEX and so on.

Screencap'ed from investgemcoin.com
As you can see, that's "Gemcoin" 2nd from the right on the top row, and here's a guy that looks like he's getting money from it.

So why is there a "Gemcoin" logo's bottom showing just above the ATMs?

Turns out, these two are probably the ONLY ATMs that display the Gemcoin logo... because they are installed at Gemcoin HQ, i.e. UCCA / USFIA / AFG / whatchamacallit in Arcadia. Don't believe me? Here's a different angle of the same ATMs, from a different Gemcoin promoter:

Then consider this shot from the FRONT of the lobby... at the reception desk

One must conclude that the two confirmed-to-exist (whether you can actually convert Gemcoins to cash is a different matter) alleged "Gemcoin" ATM are located in the main lobby of USFIA/AFG, as this is the SAME paneling used in both pictures.  Albeit it's not in public view, but around the back.

Frankly, other than banks, the ONLY other locations with ATMs, esp. these free-standing kinds, are local convenience stores. You know, something like this:

Sunday, July 5, 2015

USFIA Update: Who is this security guard and was he also identified as gemstone appraiser?

Previously, we've identified the USFIA shindig in Arcadia, where Steve Chen threw a party for "USFIA Club Grand Opening", where he threw a party, then started up a motorcade  to visit his closed Quail Lodge golf course and promised this will be developed into a huge profitable enterprise. This was back on May 29, 2015. John Wuo was present.

Also present was this security guard, in no less than three photos.

Security guard, photo 1 of 3, hiding in background to left

Security guard photo 2, posing with fellow guards and motorcade control, far right

Security guard photo 3 of 3, posing with fans with thumbs up sign
Do we agree that these three shows the photo of the same guy? Taller than most Chinese, stocky.

USFIA Update: Was in China earlier than previous reported, but definitely originated in the US

Searching for signs of USFIA, known in China as  美洲矿业 (American Continental Mining Industries, or just 'American Mining' for now), yielded a couple more links.

The earliest mention of American Mining was not in China, but in the US. A poster "Harryyu" posted a wanted ad in Southern California about "seeking USFIA sales rep for gemstone mining" dated 06-SEP-2013.

The earliest mention in China was a forum post in February 9th, 2014, where Mr. Ho Peng 候鵬 (surname is "Ho") made a big presentation in Qingdao, Shangdong province, China. You are welcome to Google translate the link, but I'll give you the TL;DR version:  Ho held a big meeting in the local 5-star hotel called Le Meridien  ( 青岛万达艾美酒店)  where Mr. Ho presented to a packed house full of MLMers from all over China for two hours. Ho claimed he had been in various MLM things for two years, and made over 20 million RMB and this American Mining will be the biggest next thing, and he had already made millions in this one, and he guarantees this is a sure win. Ho kept talking about his "aunt" 姨媽 from Guizhou 貴州, who's a local fortune teller and told him he will make tens of millions. Everybody can believe this fortune.

Alleged insider claimed that Ho is the local Judas Goat and may be part owner. He was shifting money out of the country and already got a divorce to emigrate. He had to make "one last job" before disappearing from China. Another accused Ho Peng of swindling people using his aunt's name.
Ho Peng, in Macao 22-APR-2014, promoting USFIA

I won't bother translating the comp package, except to explain that if you buy in at packages of 2K, 5K, 10K, or 30K (RMB of course), you get either protostock, or actual amber, and you can trade the protostock with their platform.

Other news sources claimed that Ho Peng was doing the same schtick all over China, and claimed to be a standing member of UCCA. USFIA name was mentioned prominently. Here is Ho Peng doing his schtick in Macao in April 22, 2014. You can see USFIA and 美洲矿业 in the background. You can view the entire video here. Chrome users: Use incognito mode to bypass the "missing plugins" error.

Note that the video title is 美洲矿业中美政治协商促进会—侯鹏 which translates to "American Mining UCCA -- Ho Peng"

In a different copy of the video, Ho Peng got a different title: 美洲矿业中美政治协商促进会常务委员—侯鹏 which translated to "American Mining UCCA standing member -- Ho Peng"

And he apparently got an ID card from UCCA shown at the same event, vidcapped from a different video.

Back in the US, also on the ChineseInLA website, a user by the name of "Amber Dream" posted an ad copy under "China-US Commerce" topic on 20-FEB-2014.

Another forum post in China was made on March 8th, 2014 where similar allegations was mentioned and the meeting in Qingdao was again referenced, but this time with a promise that Ho will do a presentation in Beijing. It also mentioned that his biggest downline is a Mr. Wang  王軍 Wang Jun who also made millions.

The fortunes started to turn for USFIA in China around March 2014, as they are starting to attract the attention of the authorities all over China.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

USFIA update: Who is Leonard S. Johnson and was he really invited to Dubai to speak about alternative currencies such as Gemcoin? (Hint: No)

One of the most interesting (yet ridiculous) HYIPs based out of the US is USFIA, i.e. "American Mining" 美洲矿业, which was apparently kicked out of China in 2014. USFIA claimed to be a part of AFG (Alliance Financial Group USA) and controlled by UCCA, headed by Mr. Steve Chen.

Leonard S. Johnson
as shown on aimcongress.com
One of the frequent faces for USFIA is Mr. Leonard S. Johnson, who were mentioned multiple times as a stand-in for the head of USFIA Steven Chen at various seminars in Chinese-heavy cities such as SF Bay Area, Toronto, and so on.

There are various posts touting him being "invited to Dubai in UAE to attend AIM Congress, a gathering of the world's top economists, investors, and money big shots, and to speak there."

Is this real, or merely someone embellishing the facts? Let's find out.

If you search for Leonard S. Johnson Dubai, you will come across this page under aimcongress.com:

Which appears to be legitimate, until you realize it never said anything about what he will be speaking about. Indeed, there's no listing for him to speak AT ALL under "Speakers and Partners' contribution"    Searching the website for Leonard brought up that exact profile page, and nothing more. He's not listed on any sort of itinerary, speaker schedule, and so on. He's certainly not in the "Conference Programme" which lists every event, or in the brochure either.

If we search for AFG, we find a listing for GEMCOIN even though the profile is for AFG and USFIA. Even the website link goes to AFGroupUS.com.

There are two more mentions of AFG besides Leonard's profile and Gemcoin page though.

Bad Argument: The Evil Twin Did it

When confronted with the news that their pet scheme may be a scam, victims of a scam react in various ways to deal with their cognitive dissonance, when two sets of facts collide as they can't both be true.

Some recoil in horror, realize they've been scammed, and quickly attempt to withdraw their money (which are usually stonewalled, leading to further desperation.)

Some are doubtful but vowed to stop taking their upline's word and do some honest research on their own

Some recoil and hide, denying that any "negativity" exists, and you should shut up because they don't want to hear about how they are wrong.

Some react with indignation and attempt to defend their scheme, but when they are armed with little more than PR material and fallacies like "I got paid so it's not a scam (to me)" they rarely have much success convincing anyone but themselves.

Some goes for "special pleading", i.e. come up with reasons why their scheme is the exception, not the rule, i.e. it fits all the definitions of a scam, but it's not a scam

Some go for a "no true Scotsman" gambit, claiming that the company itself is fine. It's only a few "rogue reps" that ruined things for everybody else.

Though recently, in span of a week or two, I saw a new variation on "no true Scotsman"... which I will call...

"The Evil Twin Did It!"  aka "They stole our name!"

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Scammer Update: Sann Rodrigues (i.e. Sanderlay Rodrigues de Vasconcelos) posted bail for US crimes, rearrested for escaping from Brazil

Previously MLMSkeptic has covered the various scams pumped by noted scammer Sann Rodrigues, whose real name is Sanderlay Rodrigues de Vasconcelos. For those who haven't caught up, here's a quick summary:
  • Universo FoneClub circa 2006, closed by SEC as Ponzi scheme
  • Tried to restart FoneClub in Brazil, closed after a year
  • TelexFree scam that was eventually shut down in 2014
  • iFreeX (meeting raided by Brazilian police in Feb 2015)
Back in February 2014 MLMSkeptic did a profile on Sann Rodrigues, here's a bit of an update. 

In April 2014, TelexFree tried to declare bankruptcy, and was immediately raised by Homeland Security and Mass Department of Securities. Their CFO Joe Craft tried to leave with a laptop bag he claimed was personal property. It was searched and TENS OF MILLIONS in cashier's checks was found in the bag and the entire bag was held for evidence. SEC filed its case under seal to be opened upon raid. . 

After TelexFree went bust in April 2014, it appears that Sann Rodrigues was still traveling the world, still selling TelexFree, but is looking for another scam to promote, and he seem to be the first person EVER to promote iFreeX as of September 2014, which, based on the name, appears to be at least inspired by, if not an outright clone of TelexFree, as it claims to be a communications app to do voice and text chat, video talk, and video conference. (TelexFree was VOIP, which is voice chat)  There are many who suspect that Sann Rodrigues was the real founder of iFreeX (though the real founder had not been identified thus far). 

Within 1 month, Massachussetts, where TelexFree was based, issued a warning on iFreeX being a scam and a clone of TelexFree. Sann Rodrigues then apparently deleted all the iFreeX content from his Facebook timeline. (it is widely believed that he then started a new one somewhere that only posts in Portuguese, hidden from public view) 

In Feburary 2015, Brazilian Federal police special unit GAEP raided an iFreeX meeting headed by Sann Rodrigues. Rodrigues was invited downtown for a long chat, and apparently had his passport confiscated and told "don't leave the area". Apparently the Brazilians want to talk about his tax evasion.