Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bad Company

There’s a small town in Ohio, named Dublin, after the famous city in Ireland. Commonly depicted as ‘gentrified modern,’ which is a quaint way of describing gold courses, strip malls and multi-plex theaters, Dublin – the one in Ohio, not the other one – is headquarters for Wendy’s International. Most people have heard of the hamburger chain. What they haven’t heard of is another big firm in the same city.

National Century Financial Enterprises. Started in 1991, this outfit soon became the nation’s largest purchaser of hospital, physician and other health care receivables. The buying up of receivables works like this. NCFE buys the accounts receivable of small hospitals, medical clinics and nursing homes. Because of their small sizes, all of these health-care providers are having money problems. They are desperate because they have no money with which to operate, because they have to wait for payment from insurance companies.

National Century steps in, giving them cash to cover their expenses so they can stay in business. The health-care providers win because they don’t have to wait for insurance companies to pay them. They get most of their money now, and don’t have to mess with the frustrating job of dealing with stingy insurance companies.

National Century wins because they keep a fee or percentage of any money they collect from the insurance companies. Then NCFE puts all the accounts they bought into a kitty and sells them in the form of asset-backed securities to huge institutional investors like money market funds, or retirement funds.

Over the course of 11 years, National Century purchased $15 billion in account receivables. They securitized them, which means they sold bonds to raise more capital so they could buy even more receivables and their partner in turning receivables into securities on Wall Street was Credit Suisse First Boston.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Preview: Introduction of Blood In, Blood Out: The Violent Empire of the Aryan Brotherhood

The Aryan Brotherhood: The First Woe

January 16, 1967: Nazi prison-gang associate Robert Holderman was stabbed and then battered to death by Black Guerilla Family gang members at San Quentin.

January 17, 1967: 1800 black inmates and 1000 white inmates clashed on the main yard at San Quentin over the death of Robert Holderman. Prison guards broke up the brawl by firing shots into the mass. Five inmates were wounded by the shots. One inmate suffered severe head trauma from the beating he received from opposing gang members. Two other inmates suffered non-fatal heart attacks.

August 27, 1967: Nineteen-year-old Barry Byron Mills was arrested in Ventura, California and held for transfer to Sonoma County, where he had boosted a car. Sonoma had issued an arrest warrant in his name for grand theft auto.

December 12, 1967: Barry Mills requested and was denied probation. Instead he was sentenced to one year in the Sonoma County Jail.

January 29, 1968: Barry Mills and Buddy Coleman escaped from the Sonoma County Honor Farm.

February 17, 1968: Barry Mills was arrested in Windsor, California, and held on a warrant charging escape without force.

March 12, 1968: Barry Mills sentenced to one year and one day in prison for escape without force from the Sonoma County Jail.

March 13, 1969: Barry Mills was released from prison.

January 13, 1970: Soledad State Prison Aryan Brotherhood leader Buzzard Harris, along with fellow Aryan Brotherhood members Smiley Hoyle, Harpo Harper and Chuko Wendekier, and Mexican Mafia members Colorado Joe Ariaz, John Fanene, and Raymond Guerrero battled with Black Guerilla Family gang members on the exercise yard at Soledad prison. Tower guard Opie Miller opened fire with his high-powered rifle, killing Black Guerilla leader W.L. Nolen, Cleveland Edwards and Alvin Miller. Aryan Brotherhood leader Buzzard Harris was wounded in the groin by a rifle bullet.

January 30, 1970: Barry Mills and William Hackworth were arrested after robbing a Stewarts Point convenience store.

February 3, 1970: Barry Mills convicted of first-degree armed robbery after co-defendant William Hackworth testified for the prosecution. Barry Mills sentenced to 5 years to life in prison.

April 21, 1972: Aryan Brotherhood members Fred Mendrin and Donald Hale murdered Fred Castillo by stabbing him to death at the Chino Institute for Men. Castillo was the leader of the Nuestra Familia gang. The Aryan Brotherhood murdered Castillo as part of a contract with the Mexican Mafia.

December 15, 1972: Aryan Brotherhood members Fred Mendrin and Donald Hale sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Fred Castillo.

1973: The Aryan Brotherhood was officially formed in the federal prison system.

October 18, 1977: Aryan Brotherhood member Little Joe O’Rourke engaged in a vicious gun battle with campus police at El Camino Community College. The gun battle erupted when the police, as part of a routine check, disrespected Little Joe by asking him for his student I.D. Little Joe was wounded and arrested.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Zzyzx (Part Final)

One gentleman used the elixir extensively, but still grew no hair. Frustrated, he sued. Dr. Springer didn’t seem at all upset. He merely paid the fine, peeling off the stipulated $2500 “as casually as if he was taking care of a $2 traffic ticket.”

Dr. Springer preached mightily against the evils of alcohol and the destructive power of arguing. Demon rum “dragged men down to the dark pit of Hell.” Complaining, according to the good doctor, was toxic to mental and spiritual health.

“The Lord can’t work His miracles in a carping heart,” he often said.

Never one to let an opportunity pass, Dr. Springer started selling lots for houses on his property. That way those of his followers who had been financially blessed by God – because of Dr. Springer’s ministry – could have uninterrupted access to the healing waters of Zzyzx.

Many people took advantage of the opportunity. Soon the wooden skeletons of luxury homes being built dotted the landscape. Dr. Springer owned the construction company that purchased wood from his lumber company to build the houses.

Then things started to go to hell.

Dr. Springer was not – as he claimed – either a physician or a Methodist minister. He was a fake. The newspapers picked up on the story and the government took notice. An investigation began. As a result, the Bureau of Land Management realized that Dr. Springer did not own the land that Zzyzx sat on.

He was a squatter.

Then the American Medical Association joined in the fray. They called Dr. Springer the “King of Quacks.” The AMA accused him of fraud. A lawsuit was filed against him.

Undismayed, Dr. Springer hired an attorney. And not just any attorney. He wanted only the best. Gladys Towles Root, the famous criminal attorney, represented him. Gladys was a consummate performer. She wowed juries as she pranced about the courtrooms of America in outlandish outfits and hats like Cruella De Vil.

The trial took place and received vast media coverage. In the end, Dr. Springer was convicted of false advertising. Gladys Root filed an appeal. After two years of hearings and counter-motions, Dr. Springer’s appeal was denied.

Dr. Springer went to jail, serving 49 days of a 60-day sentence.

Informed by the BLM that he could not legally sell property he did not own, Dr. Springer wanted to pay back-rent on the property. He tried to buy the BLM off with $34,187.

The BLM said no, and evicted him off 12,800 acres that was not his in the first place. Shocked and dismayed, his followers left. The houses that were being built were leveled by the feds. When people asked about refunds, they were told to talk to Dr. Springer. But he wasn’t around. He’d vamoosed while the leaving was good. And he took his money with him.

Curtis Howe Springer died in Las Vegas in 1986. He was 90 years old when he died. While squatting on public property for more than 30 years, he made more than $20 million dollars by selling salvation and snake-oil.

The energy and audacity of Curtis Howe Springer were the biggest miracle of all.