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]


Edit Your Comment

  1. dolemite says:

    I think he is reading too much into it. What the guy was thinking while staring at the ads: “Wow, Mary Kate has really grown up…she isn’t as hot as I thought she would be. Kind of creepy looking. I wonder what DJ looks like now? What about Kimmy?…” This goes on for 5 minutes….”Damn…now what train was I supposed to get on? I think Montery…Mongolian…” “Ahah, Montogomery-Mission!”

  2. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Good thing for cops and private detectives that most perps aren’t this sophisticated. Of course, those are the ones you want most to find.

  3. Big Ant says:

    “Maybe he did it every day. “

    Or just on the days when he didn’t want anyone to follow him.

    “It makes it impossible for people to follow him.”

    Only if you don’t know what your doing. Which is why this following thing is best done in teams where once a guy has done his part he is done, if the same person again comes into the tail later it just increases the chance of recognition.

    • Ben Popken says:

      Read the article, he did have a partner.

      • Big Ant says:

        Yes, he had a partner but not a team. Two people are just as easy to spot as one.

        This is why trailing professionals is so difficult, and why it costs so much. Unless everyone on the team is trained they can blow the whole operation.

    • iancoleTX says:

      Broseph, if you don’t know the difference between “your” and “you’re”, be advised that I’m going to take your uber stealth protips with a grain of salt.

  4. Javin says:

    I’m confused… What does this have to do with consumers? At all?

    • Mecharine says:

      Ponzi Scheme?

      • Javin says:

        Except that this doesn’t actually say WHAT a “Ponzi Scheme” is or how to avoid it… Anywhere… There’s literally absolutely nothing about this article that belongs on Consumerist. Yet I have a 2003 Nissan Maxima that has a faulty Cam Shaft Sensor. 630,000 2003 Nissan Maximas were recalled due to faulty cam shaft sensors that cause the cars to turn off while driving. Nissan refuses to honor the recall and fix mine. But this is apparently not a consumerist worthy story, as they have refused to run it. But THIS shit DOES get run? Is Consumerist taking kickbacks from Nissan now not to run the story? Have they become “Rip-Off Report?” Where do we post when Consumerist is the problem?

        • Nytmare says:

          Sometimes their stories are tangential. If no one is interested, no one will comment. If you’re not interested, find something else to read. Tough shit if you don’t like a story, complaints about links are never welcome in the thread.

          • Javin says:

            Nice to see that you’ve utterly missed the point entirely. But then, I suppose with Consumerist no longer being a Consumerist website, they need dim bulbs like you as fans to keep going.

  5. peebozi says:

    ponzi schemes are just the free market in action. ponzi schemers are simply persecuted by an over regulating government that doesn’t want ponzi scheme competition.

  6. Nytmare says:

    You’d think that after scouting for tails and finding none, day after day, he’d get complacent and stop putting so much effort into it. So maybe the detective here was not the only one who’s tried to follow the scammer.