To Catch A Ponzi Schemer

There’s a cool article over at Bay Citizen that gives a play-by-play account of a private investigator’s efforts to tail a suspected Bay Area ponzi scheme master. What makes it all the more interesting is that the target, an ex-con and fugitive, had developed an arsenal of tactics he used used to try to evade anyone who might be tracking him.

Schmolder, hiding amid the crush of commuters, soon spots Viola walking very slowly through the station. “He walks past the turnstiles to the opposite end of the BART station, and he is just lingering. He goes up to the advertising kiosks as if he is looking at an ad, but he is looking at the reflection of the people behind him. He’s trying to figure out who might be following him,” Schmolder said.

“It’s just cat-and-mouse that that point. He lingers, mopes around for about five minutes, an eternity under the circumstances. He deliberately chose the Montgomery-Mission underground tunnel, to cut off the [cellular] communications” of anyone following him. “This man is calculating beyond belief. Maybe he did it every day. It makes it impossible for people to follow him.”

…The corridor runs a full city block from Market Street to Jessie Street. Anyone entering after Viola would easily be spotted. Schmolder could see Viola lingering at the far end of the hallway, looking at some art. Schmolder, at the opposite end of the hallway, was the only other loiterer there, and he knew at this point Viola was on high alert. “I knew I would not be able to hold the tail any longer. I had to get my partner and switch roles. Viola is probably onto me, and very suspicious of any activity.” Viola began walking, still slowly, along the corridor, back to the Market Street entrance, toward Schmolder. “I have to let him walk. I cannot let him walk past me, to get that close.”

The PI ended up losing his tail too.

Catch Me If You Can [Bay Citizen]
Mystery and Millions in North Beach [Bay Citizen]