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
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

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

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. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Scam Psychology: Know Just Enough to be Dangerous (to yourself and others)

Do you know just enough to be dangerous? You don't think so?

You are probably wrong, as scientists have LONG documented "Dunning-Kruger Effect". Basically, for a given skill, incompetent people will
  • fail to recognize their own lack of skill
  • fail to recognize genuine skill in others
  • fail to recognize extremity of their inadequacy
Basically, you are so incompetent, you don't even recognize that you ARE incompetent. It's be like a person born and grew up near-sighted, that he thinks the world really is slightly blurry, and didn't even realize he needed glasses. 

This is related to, but is not the same as overconfidence effect, in that a person always thinks his confidence in his or her judgments is greater than the ACCURACY of those judgments. This is especially true when the confidence is high. People who were 100% sure of their answer in a certain test that turned out to be only 80% right are guilty of such overconfidence.

This is very common in scams, where the victims were recruited to be a co-conspirator, (i.e. to also recruit, for pyramid and Ponzi schemes, and/or to act as "anecdote witnesses", promoters, and so on), where the victim, overconfident in his or her skills to spot a scam (often armed with such myths as "we have a product, thus we can't be a pyramid scheme", or "I got paid, thus it can't be a scam"), failed to even realize s/he is not competent to even recognize his/her incompetence and failed to recognize proper advice from others.

The scammers are experts in making you believe you made the right decision(s) all along by give you the mushroom treatment, through "learned optimism", except they do it through lie and deceit.