Too Good To Be True

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Personal Finance  |  House: Booksie Classic
A senior invests in a overseas high yield bond with dire consequences.

Submitted: April 15, 2019

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Submitted: April 15, 2019

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It is Monday morning at the Greenview Healton Branch of National  Town & City Bank. Greenview Healton is a satellite district in the blurry suburbia of east London. The bank branch is on the local high street sandwiched between a retail outlet on one side and a jewellery shop the other. Glass fronted with surrounding walled bright colours, the bank aims to welcome customers.
Inside the branch, the layout is modern open plan. When there are few customers the place can be almost relaxed. But the first morning of the week it is crowded with standing room only. Too busy and for most people a long wait beckoned.
One of those customers is a stoutly build mature senior. She is a determined looking older woman with tightly bunned immaculate short grey hair matched by a well-cut blue suit; stylish but not of this era.
The woman is Helen Wilton, a widow, almost five years retired.
At last its' her turn to get served at the "other business" counter.
A tall, bespectacled middle-aged clerk recognised Helen as a long-standing customer.
"Ah Mrs Wilton, glad to see you. Its been a while...how are you doing these days?"
Helen was not in the mood for small talk as she had already waited almost 1 hour having joined the wrong queue and then an over-worked teller has raised his voice in directing her to the right counter. The layout of the bank had changed since her last visit. That was quite a few years back. In the interim Helen had learnt computer skills from her son and so banking and bill payments matters could be done online.
 Helen composed herself and replied to the clerk she was "fine". She recognised him as a long time staff member who was a managerial aide to the manager Mr Fuller.
She continued:
"I would like to see Mr Fuller as soon as possible...I need some investment advice".
The clerk frowned as he inspected the appointments page on the computer screen which took up the front of his desk.
After a pause, the clerk spoke:
"Well Mr Fuller is currently at a conference, and he has many urgent meetings on his return....... but 10.00am  on the 18th...one week today...is that suitable?"
It was not "suitable," thought Helen but she continued playing the politeness game and  matter-of-factly queried:
"You have nothing before then?"
"Afraid not" came the reply... "you could always have a chat with  Ms Tomkins... the new assistant manager". said the clerk and as when he spoke he slightly mockingly cocked his head towards a desk at the opposite corner of the room.  There sat a soberly dressed self-important young woman in a state of frantic busy-i-ness; young enough to be my granddaughter thought Helen. And not old enough to have sufficient financial experience. The clerk was dismissive of this new assistant manager who Helen surmised had leap-frogged him in the management hierarchy.
Helen directed her attention back to the clerk:
"I will wait for Mr Fuller. I have always dealt with him"... she said knowing the truth held a  lie..." so please book the appointment with him in two weeks".
"So be it," said the clerk "I will just ask you to confirm a few details," She told him her account number and after he typed her details into the computer to get her file she was asked to confirm her email and mobile number.
In the last few years, Helen had not only learnt to use the internet but also had become more comfortable with using it. She confirmed the contact details as correct.
"we will email or phone you to re-confirm the appointment a day before"... he said standing up and adding "do have a nice day Mrs Wilton".
 He then ushed her to the main entrance.
Helen felt she was being hurried along out. Despite the fact, the clerk was not rude unlike the teller earlier.
Her home was a short bus ride away, but she felt so unhappy with the wasted time at the bank she decided to walk back. It was up and downhill, but the weather was beautiful, and she could be home within half an hour. The walk, she believed, would help her knees as even the strong medicine she took daily could not remove the pain she often felt in the knee joints.
On her journey home she reflected on the incidents that morning in the bank. No wonder people hated banks she concluded, as these bankers behave as if they are doing their customers a favour.
She realised: it was time to take matters into her own hands.
A few days previously a long term bond government bond paying a decent monthly amount had become due, and the proceeds of the bond were now in her bank current account. The amount was 108,000 thousand pounds, and she knew from her search on the internet that the best any bank would give her now was a miserable 1% give or take a few decimal points. She needed a much higher return to make ends meet.
The pension she received was inadequate for her monthly expenses. Hence why she needed the advice from Mr Fuller about getting a decent return from her savings.

Helen arrived back at her apartment which was on the ground floor of a terraced house, and the first thing she did was turn on her computer which was near the front window of her living room. It took a while to get connected, but Helen managed it with no mishaps; her son had installed the PC for her and shown her to use it though she still was wary of the technology.
But she liked the description of older people using the internet as 'Silver Surfers'
 The next few hours she started searching around web sites for UK bonds to find somewhere that would pay her a decent income. All she needed from investment proceeds was around 500 pounds per month and that added to her pension income would be sufficient.
Hard as she looked, it seemed that UK web sites gave no decent return.

Helen took a break for lunch and made a sandwich for herself in the small kitchen at the rear of the apartment; she thought about her son Mathew, now married and living in west London. Mathew would be a father soon. Helen was to be a Grandma! The child would need the best and Helen was determined to provide it.
 She collected her thoughts and returned to the living room and resumed searching on the internet.  This time she typed  in" Offshore Bonds."
Several web sites came into view many using the phrase 'High Yield'.
However, a particular link drew her attention, and she clicked on it.
"Land Security PLC" was the bold heading over a photo of several smartly dressed executives in a high-class office Suite. The picture suggested wealth and success.
Under the heading was a vibrant blue sky background and a picture of many luxurious beachfront properties with detached villas and apartment blocks, all of which fronted a clean sandy beach.
The caption said:
Land Security PLC is proud to present our latest venture in the Andaman Sea
A 3 Year secured Phuket Islands Property Bond
12% per cent per Annum guaranteed, interest paid monthly in arrears
Minimum investment 20000 US dollars or equivalent
Final phase: Development, Bank secured
Placement offer ends in 10 days or less if fully subscribed
Land Security Holdings,
 HQ based in Phuket City, Thailand.
(A subsidiary of Land Security PLC)
 
There was a list of many other features, and as Helen went over the details, she calculated in her mind the return she would receive. No wonder -Helen considered-the greedy banks were raking in the money! They could get a small fortune from the likes of the Phuket investment yet those very same banks paid their loyal customers a mere pittance.
She noted the closing date was nearing, so she excitedly filled her details into the online form including her address and contact numbers.
In the space for 'Investment Sum', she typed in "up to 100,000 pounds".
Before pressing 'send,' Helen double checked the form and added the words "please treat this as urgent".
Getting tired now Helen switched off her computer. Time for her to rest for the remainder of the day and think about her grandchild soon to be.
**********
 
Some weeks before Helen's visit to her bank and thousands of miles from her a 33-year-old man entered the Phuket Beach Road branch of Southern Thai General Bank.  Phuket is a resort island in the country of Thailand.
 The man was of average height and slenderly built. Bright blue eyes, with a prominent nose and moustache. He gave off the air of confidence and means. His name is Joey Logan. He had only recently arrived in Phuket coming from the Thai capital city of Bangkok. A journey by a plane of about 1 hour. Many flights arrive daily into Phuket both domestically and internationally.
 
Phuket is a world-renowned holiday destination. It is known for its blue skies, clean sandy beaches,  and mostly sun-filled days plus a vibrant nightlife.
But Joey Logan was not in Phuket to enjoy the tourist delights. His purpose was criminal. Over the last year, he had already visited locations throughout Asia and had successfully scammed victims from other countries. He called his victims 'marks'.
 
As part of his mode of operation, Joey needed to provide to the' marks' a facade of respectability which included having a bank account; hence he chose the Southern Thai General Bank. The bank had outlets throughout Thailand and many branches in the south of the country, especially in Phuket. The Beach Road branch is in a popular location near what is called Patong Beach.
 The bank gets many foreign customers.  To open an account a foreigner needs to show a valid passport and in addition to be a long term resident with a valid visa or hold a work permit.

Joey went to the counter for "New Account Openings" and was asked to complete forms and provide documents of identity.
He possessed a fraudulent passport bearing the name Leslie Steven Holdings. It bore a photo of Joey.
He had paid a lot of money for the passport which he had purchased in Bangkok from the criminal underworld. There was a fake visa stamped into the passport; he also held a fraudulent work permit.

Joey knew that to make money it was first necessary to spend money and he considered it good business to pay for the best possible forgeries. He was right.
The bank inspected his identity documents and could find nothing amiss. After taking copies of his identity documents, the bank approved his application
 to open an account.
Joey even persuaded the bank to abbreviate his account name to LS Holdings.
The bank staff in all their dealings with Joey found him polite and charming.
But the truth is he is a career criminal — a liar and a cheat with no mercy when stealing money from whomever he could.

During his time in Phuket Joey would be a frequent visitor to the bank as they messaged his phone when payments arrived in his account. He would then go to the bank and personally withdraw the credit in cash.
During his bank visits, Joey was able to avoid suspicion by using charm and the claim (which was, of course, false) that he worked in the property business and had told the bank his occupation as "International Property Financier".
 Large cash transactions for property purchases were not usually in Phuket.
Once Joey had the cash he would often money transfer outlets in Phuket and send elsewhere much of the money, though he kept a sizeable amount locked up in his room.
 
The weeks passed
, and Joey had succeeded in tricking 3 'marks'  to part with the equivalent of 65,000 pounds. He was happy with his work.

Joey rented a studio room in Phuket Town; an anonymous location away from the bank, the beach and other distractions. It was early evening, and Joey wore a string vest and shorts; the air con was roaring away, and the heat outside was like a sauna.
Joey was missing Bangkok and his Thai girlfriend yet he was enjoying Phuket for its' laid back atmosphere and the ease he could do his work there.

The visits Joey made to the Phuket bank carried danger; hence why he had grown a moustache, shaven his head and wore blue contact lenses whenever he visited the bank. He looked forward to when he could discard the contact lenses, shave the moustache and grow back his hair. In the future, if he was ever apprehended he hoped to avoid being recognised. Joey had beady brown eyes, and with a habit of shifting his eyes around a lot especially when he was in a public place. However, he had taught himself to control that habit.

While he was pleased with his work so far,  the high expenditure included buying fake identity documents, so he hoped for at least one more mark before he left Phuket. Joey had paid a web designer a sizable fee to create the imaginary ' Land Securities Holdings' web site. It was a very professional job and had drawn in some rich investors. Those investors believe they would get their interest payments soon, so Joey knew he needed to leave Phuket within about a week. For every sucker who took the bait, there were dozens of others who enquired but never 'bit'.

To avoid detection, it was essential he moved to different locations every month or so whether it was within Thailand or another country.
Joey poured himself a large glass of whisky at the kitchenette area of his room.
As he sipped his whisky, he looked around the studio room which he had leased for a month — humble but anonymous surroundings.  A  bed was next to a wardrobe. Beside that was a  tiny kitchenette where he stood which on the opposite side of the room faced a table on which was placed a laptop with other techno items.
As Joey was finishing his drink, there was a message beep coming from his phone. He put down his glass at the kitchenette area and crossed to the other side of his room.
He read the email message. A new application had arrived!
After connecting to the net, he studied the details on the online form, and his eyes widened when he read the words "100,000 pounds .... to be treated as urgent".
Joey would often go days without any serious punter, but he had a feeling that this mark was a serious contender. He looked at the name and address and the London district area. Via google, he would be able to get a street view of the place and do some internet research on that as well to see if he could discover more information on this Helen Wilton.
Sometimes detailed internet research could discover all sorts of useful information about a person. Especially their weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
 He had work to do as it was essential to phone this Mrs Wilton the next day.
**********

 It was Tuesday afternoon, and Helen had been doing housework and laundry. Less to do now than in the past as her husband Ernest was no longer around. And she missed him dearly but had learned to cope. Nearly 18 months since he had passed away and Helen was reflecting on some of the good times they had shared. The holidays they had enjoyed together and their successful careers as primary school teachers before retirement. Mostly her thoughts went to her son Mathew. Mattie, as he was affectionately known, had some trouble in his younger days but was doing well now in a good job and with stable home life and child soon to come.
As Helen reminisced, the silence broke with the sound of her landline telephone ringing. She kept the phone in her bedroom so it rang a few times before she could get to it from the living room.
She lifted the receiver saying: "Hello?"
"Yes, good afternoon" came the well-spoken reply from a confident sounding male voice.
"May I, please speak to Mrs Helen Wilton" he continued
"This is Helen Wilton".
"Ah, Mrs Wilton my name is Joseph Pope.  I am an investment executive with Land Security PLC. I am calling from overseas; it's about the application form you send to our company."
 
The voice on the phone was a deep unaccented speaking voice which Joey had been able to cultivate which would suggest to 'marks' he was a trustworthy and respectable type.
Helen was listening intently. The prospect of a 12% return filled her with excitement.
That morning Joey had the notes he had researched from the internet about Helen. He had prepared in detail how he would speak to Helen, and he knew the answers to give to advance his aim to get her money.
Overnight Joey had researched on the internet the name 'Helen Wilton' and her address in Greenview Healton. He had searched images, and eventually, one particular Google image showed the picture of an overweight, aged woman in front of a stall at a fundraising charity event organised by The Greenview  Healton Catholic Church. The text accompanying the image gave the woman's name: Helen Wilton.
Joey assumed that Helen was Catholic so she would be impressed with the name 'Pope'.  He even added a first name of 'Joseph.'

He continued his rehearsed sales pitch on the phone:

" I hope this is a convenient time for you Mrs Wilton as I would like to discuss some more details with you....."
Goodness, me Helen thought, what a polite and well spoken young man!
Unbeknown to her the man had to spend a long time cultivating a voice that was unaccented and which gave the impression of confidence and success.
"of course it is a convenient time," said Helen... Joey detected enthusiasm in Helens' voice suggesting a fish was ripe to take the bait.
"Well Mrs Wilton", Joey continued making sure he used the targets name as many times as possible to ingratiate himself and gain her confidence
"My company Land Security- is in the final phase of developing the luxury block on Phuket island. The local contractors have done a great job and will finish the work on time. We expect high demand for the completed villas and apartments. Many units already have deposits.
We expect sales to be overbooked, but full completions may take a few years so to meet our obligations with the contractors we are happy to offer this  bond."
After a slight pause Helen said "I see"...and Joey being a seasoned con artist realised she was an amateur so he need not give any more detail to her as to how exactly such a high yield was possible.
Joey then reeled off some facts about his company and how stable and prosperous it was.
There was indeed an FTSE 100 company called Land Securities, but it had no connection to the fictitious Land Security PLC name given in Joey's internet brochure.
"yes I understand that," said Helen.
"and also" Joey added. " the first monthly interest payment can only be paid one month after the date your Bond is issued"
"Plus" interjected Joey to further soften the 'too good to be true' tell-tale "the interest is paid to you gross, so it is entirely your responsibility to ensure any income tax liability".
"Certainly" replied Helen:
The prospect of getting one over the Inland Revenue as well as the Banks was music to the ears of Helen.

And for Joey now he knew that this 'sell' was entering the crucial end game. The next few minutes would either make or break the deal.
He was going to gamble now to get the 'con' over the line.
"I know for you this is an important and urgent investment"...bringing in the words used by Helen on the form.. "but as this Bond is so popular, the subscription may now be full"...
"Oh'"said Helen ...Joey could hear the disappointment in her voice.
"I will check with my secretary ...stay online please"...
Joey then waited a moment, and from a device nearby he played a recording with the sound of his desk chair moving. Then he played the sound of him opening an office door.  The noise of a busy office came over the line to Helen which was also from a recording.
The sound of activity and an overworked office was a sure sign to Helen this would likely be a good investment.
A moment later Joey returned to the phone:
"so sorry to keep you waiting  Mrs Wilton... my secretary will bring me the latest  subscription figures in a few moments."
"I can wait," said Helen.
Now knowing that Joey was dealing with a disillusioned bank customer, Joey needed to discover who was her bankers. It was also crucial for Joey to nurture Helen's distrust of her bank.
"it's not for me to criticise'"said Joey, but it is not good enough the low-interest rates these bank offer..."
"I could not agree more," said Helen. " I have been a loyal customer at Town and County yet such low returns."
They then engaged in some chit-chat with Joey discovering that Helen was a widow and reasonably new to the Internet and would soon learn how to get into facebook as her first grandchild was on the way. Helen also revealed her son had some previously visited Thailand on several occasions.
Their conversation was interrupted by another woman's voice.
"Here is today's investment subscription sir"- which was yet another recording played by Joey over the line to Helen. The voice was that of an English girl Joey had met in a Bangkok bar who had innocently provided to him the voice over.
Back on the phone, Joey says:
"Ah, Mrs Wilton. I have the figures now. Let me take a look....hmm....this investment is so popular."
Helen sighed, but it was at that moment. Joey knew the fish was about to bite.
"However", Joey's voice rose, " I notice that the Bond subscriptions must close  in about one more week and it's almost full...how much would you like to invest..?"
"100,000" sterling came the reply...
Helen desperately wanted a  high return would be a lifesaver, and she was now being wound up to a state of anxiety.
Joey was equally wound up though for different reasons to Helen. But he kept his cool and paused while taping into a calculator which he deliberately made sure Helen could hear over the phone
A few moments later:
"ah...good news Mrs Wilton...if you can commit to that sum  and get it to us speedily I can reserve a bond for you."
Helen was delighted.  She could barely contain herself. But how could she get the money to them speedily she asked him?
"Well there are various methods, I would suggest a Bank transfer...."
Joey knew that if Helen was in contact with her bank about a 100,000-pound transfer to Thailand all sorts of questions could be asked by the Bank about the purpose for remitting such a large amount, so Joey said:
"Do you have internet bank"?
Helen did and told him so.
It was Joey's turn to be elated.
"Well what you can do is said the money from your bank to our bank here...now there is a law in Thailand that says amounts over 20,000 sent overseas need to have a Bank certification. So what I suggest you do is send to us over the next five working days 20,000 per day, and that will not need certification."
There was no such law, and it was total nonsense. But Joey wanted to avoid at all costs Helens bank asking her questions.  He knew there was less risk that Town & County Bank would do that if he could get Helen to make daily online transfers within this banks daily transfer limit of 20,000 pounds.
 A one-off transfer of 100,000  had the risk her bank querying with Helen the size and purpose of the transmission. That may alert her to the scam.
There would be a good chance from Joey's perspective that the bank would not notice online transfers within the daily limit, but even if they did, there was nothing the bank could do.

If Helen had said, she did not have internet banking. Joey knew how to instruct her how to make the transfer to try to avoid her bank asking too many damaging questions.
But as it transpired he did not need that Plan B:
"yes I can do those transfers," said Helen..." But it will not be until next week that you get the full amount."
"That's acceptable," said Joey  '" so long as we receive the first instalment in the next two days then we can reserve your Bond for 100,000 pounds".
Joey knew now was the time to press the sale. He was aware that the other victims of the Phuket scam would be waiting for their interest payments in about a week or so; hence he needed to get this one over the line.
"What I will now do is send you a copy of the Bond terms as an email attachment. Confirm by return email your agreement to the terms, and I will also send a copy of our Bank details. Important you make all the transfer over the next five working days. When the final instalment is received, then that is the date to calculate the start of your monthly interest payments.
Indeed once we have the full sum, we will send you a copy of the Bond  Certificate.
Now do feel free to ask any further questions"?
By this time Helen was even more excited and could think of nothing to ask except to say:
"I am so pleased with your efficient service, thank you. I shall wait for your email".
Joey gave more polite pleasantries and put down the phone. Speed was of the essence. It was still early afternoon UK time, and if he got the email to Helen quickly, there was time for her to make the transfer the same day.
Joey had professional-looking forms that had been prepared for him by fraudsters in Bangkok. On one page there was a "'Bond Terms and Conditions", and another sheet gave the name and transfer details of a bank in Phuket. These forms carried the logo of the genuine Land Securities Company.
 Written in the forms was this statement " to comply with local law-making, full or part payment signifies acceptance of our terms and conditions".  Joey then wrote a polite email to Mrs Wilton referencing their conversation and confirming the payment details.
Once done he pressed "Send."
Now he needed to wait. But the smile on his face was getting bigger.
Helen was impressed with her dealings on the phone with Mr Pope. He seemed very polite and helpful.  Even his email was pleasant saying he was delighted to confirm a bond of 100,000  reserved in her name providing she paid a deposit of 20,000 pounds within 48 hours. She read the terms, which were just as explained to her over the phone. Then she read the other sheet which detailed that her payments were to made to  LS Holdings, their bankers being "Southern Thai Retail Bank". An account number and sort code were listed.
Helen had experience already of making bank transfers, but not for such large amounts. At least by doing this way she need not go to her local branch!
She went about setting up a bank transfer, though as she was about to do, she remembered one thing her late husband had said that any investment needed careful research.
Her bank manager was away, and she did not want to deal with the little school girl parading as an Assistant Manager. Helen's son Mathew was busy in his work. But she knew she needed to get the transfer done quickly. She did an internet search, and she found Land Securities PLC.  An FTSE 100 company with headquarters in London and its' logo was the same as on the documents sent to her.
No problem!
 She also checked online the Thai bank, and that was one of the largest in Thailand with hundreds of branches throughout that country.
Helen now felt confident about the integrity of Land Security and the Phuket bank.
 Disastrously for her, she had crucially missed the subtle difference between the name Land Securities and Land Security. The first was fake, the second real.

 Online she set up a new recipient account. She needed to type in the account name, and number give the bank's name and address and fill in the account number and sort code.
Once she set up the account the bank sent to her mobile number an automated four-digit confirmatory code which she entered a line — no need for any contact with anyone at her bank.

 But Joey also knew the banking practice of National Town & City Bank. Once Helen had created the automated payments system,  that bank would rarely challenge transfers within the daily limit.
By using the account name of LS Holdings, the impression given was that it was a company account when in reality it was a personal account for the name Joey was using.

After setting up the payment system, all Helen needed to do now was to instruct her bank to make the daily transfers.
 She made the first transfer and directed it was sent  "Express." She guessed it would arrive the same day or the next day. Helen was feeling so pleased with herself she also sent off an email to the efficient Mr Pope at LS Holdings confirming she had made the first transfer.
When Joey received it, he saluted the air; though he knew it would not be until sometime the next day that the money would be in his account.
But it was time for a drink.
"Here's to suckers!" he said out loud as he poured himself a
a glass of whisky.
 
*************

After each transfer, Joey received an email from his bank confirming the arrival of the money. He would go to the bank with his fake passport and withdraw most of the cash. He had done this on numerous occasions when he was scamming other victims before Helen.

Joey made sure that he sent by email to Helen a very impressive looking "receipt" each time a sum got into his account. After the final payment was made he phoned Helen explaining that her original Bond Certificate would be posted to her as soon as possible (it never would be) but in the meanwhile, he would send her a copy. He confirmed the date and amount of the first interest payment.

 He sent her by email a most impressive copy document. Emblazoned in large letters :
'Phuket Island Property Bond.'
Under that was the company name and logo and then a text with plenty of flowery language including the words "guaranteed' "asset-backed" FCA regulated" This document was yet another fake which had been made for Joey on his instructions by his criminal associates in Bangkok. All he did was to type in Helen's name and also enter the amount of 100,000 pounds sterling, plus fill in the monthly interest which in this case was 1000 pounds and its' due date.

When Helen received the email, she was delighted. The Bond copy was an impressive document. Like a degree diploma! It confirmed all she needed to know, and she noted the date was the first instalment would be in her account, which was precisely one month away.
Only a month to go! That would give her time to make more plans for her grandchild!
*************
 
Meanwhile back in Phuket:
Joey had already withdrawn most of the cash from the LS Holdings bank account.
 He went to see the Landlord of his studio rental arranging to vacate in a few hours paying what was owed. He was packed and ready to leave. His pockets stuffed with cash.
He was looking forward to seeing his girlfriend in Bangkok.

Joey had a wife and his two young daughters in London. Though separated from his wife they were on good terms -for the sake of the children.  He had sent a lot of money to provide for his kids.
He laughed inwardly to himself when he thought about the mugs who had fallen for his  Phuket investment. He had no sympathy or scruples whatsoever. In the early days of developing his trade, he had learnt to be ruthless and not to concern himself with the consequences to those foolish enough to believe his outrageous lies.
And anyway he had noted where Helen lived was an expensive terraced property so she would be well off and could afford to lose the money.
Unbeknown to Joey the money in Helen's bank account was the only savings she had. The money represented years of effort. It would have been a lot more, but an enormous amount was spent helping her son Mathew get cured of his addiction problems.

She rented her apartment from a Housing Association. Rent was due monthly. Her pension was insufficient for her living expenses which is why she was so desperate to get a decent income from her savings.
 
Joey put out of his mind any more thoughts about the events in Phuket. No need to do anything with the bank there. He left a small amount in the account and sooner or later the bank would close the account or more likely be alerted to events. But the Bank would have no liability as they did everything under banking regulations.
Joey had arranged a flight from Phuket to Bangkok, and he would stay with his girlfriend there. All she knew was that he did property work in Phuket.
The blue contact lenses which he used when at the Bank were gone as was the moustache. The hair on his head would soon grow back.
He knew he was safe now!
He would discard the fake passport and rid himself of the SIM card for the number he used for Phuket customers. Before packing up his laptop, he got online and removed as best as he could the fakeness created by and for him online.
'Bon Voyage Phuket'! he whispered to himself as he left his room for the last time on his way to the airport for the short flight to Bangkok.
 
 
Time passed quickly, and it was almost the day for Helen to get her first interest payment. Her son Mathew had phoned to ask after her.  He had grown up in the family home at Greenview Healton. There had occurred some troubling times for him in the past with his drug addiction problems, but thanks mostly to his parent's effort he was free from his addiction. He was now in a stable marriage and lived in West London which was near his work. He had a decent job in a plumbing company. A lot of hard work but decent pay with overtime.
Mathew would be 31 soon. He was short but muscular and manly looking with longish brown hair and bearded. He had a round, welcoming face with robust features.
He was happy in his life now and had enduring gratitude to his parents who had saved him in his earlier years. He would do anything and everything for his Mum, now a widow for almost two years.
He made his usual weekly phone call to his mum:
"Hi Mah..how you doing?"
Helen looked forward to the calls from her son and wanted to always gave him the impression everything was fine including her finances and various health-related ailments.
"Mattie dear!.. everything  is going well and Ginnie and the new one coming...how are they?" Ginnie was Mathews wife.
Mother and son then talked about the state of health of everyone and all seemed well as was the case with his job.
They discussed other family issues, and Mathew remembered that a while back his mother had told him she was going to the bank to get help about her savings. He asked her about it:

Helen was reluctant to say too much but knew the very next day she would be getting 1,000 pounds into her account. At least that is what she thought.
In her mind, she debated how much to say.
"well..." Helen explained..." my bank was not that helpful, but fortunately, I found an excellent investment that is guaranteed and pays well"...
Mathew questioned if this was with a different bank.
Helen replied:
"Well not a bank...." pausing before adding..." but a very successful company and I have done the research, and everything is regulated and guaranteed."
Mathew was about to query this when Helen interrupted by saying:
"You and Ginnie are here next Sunday so  I will tell you everything at that time. I am happy with my investment".
Mathew thought it strange that his mother had not told him about this before; when his father was alive it was he who had to take care of finances, but since that time his mother had often asked sought Mathews guidance. He had also arranged for her to have a Personal Computer and had spent some while showing her how to use it and how to order online and even how to pay bills and use internet banking.
The conversation moved on and lasted more than an hour before they said their goodbyes.
That night Helen was in a state of excitement and anticipation.  Next day was apay day!
One thousand pounds!  She had already prepared a list of shopping items.
Helen eventually slept but woke early and knew it would only be after her bank opened could she see the interest payment.
After 9.00am she was starting checking her online banking. As yet no credit into her account.
 The hours passed. Helen visited her account frequently, but so far nothing had arrived. It was mid-afternoon, and she was getting concerned. She phoned the Bank to ask about her interest payment. A bank staff told her that sometimes it takes 1-3 working day for overseas remittances to arrive. That's a relief she thought. It was Monday so it might not be until Wednesday before the money came.
She would need to wait. Patience was required.
Helen went out to buy some groceries for herself but resisted the purchase of the other items on her list until the money arrived.
Tuesday daytime came and went. Nothing. Despite her checking her account online every few hours.

Surely....the money would arrive the next day!?
 But Tuesday night  Helen tossed and turned in her bed, unable to sleep. This time her sleeplessness was out of worry and not excitement. She blamed the bank: keeping her interest money until the last moment!
 
But then again she thought what if for some reason LS Holdings had not sent her interest payment?
Maybe that excellent Mr Pope in Phuket would know?
Although it was now night-time and the early hours of  Wednesday morning, maybe she should phone him and set her mind at rest.

She looked to see her mobile phone had kept his number. Then she remembered the last call from Mr Pope, and the phone screen said "number withheld". But she recalled that on the web site there was a phone number given. And anyway she had the receipts for her instalments plus her Bond copy online.
 

In her mind, Helen resolved to get Mattie to install a printer for her but up to this time that technology was beyond her.
Helen got out of bed too and went to the living room and turned on her PC. It was after 3 am on Wednesday, and she had never used her computer at that hour. But previously Mattie had told her she had 24/7 connection and anyway the lights on the modem were flashing.
 
Helen spent the next several hours online trying to find the web site or even a telephone number for Land Security in Thailand but to no avail. Helen wished she knew more about the internet.
From her emails, she found the attachments showing the receipts and her Bond copy, but there was no phone number given on those documents.
However, there was an address: Land Security PLC, Head Office, No1 A, Beach Road Patong, Phuket Thailand with a postcode listed.

She even phoned international directory enquires who had nothing listed for Land Security Holdings or LS Holdings but they were able to tell her that located at 1A Beach Road in Phuket was the name "Beach Babes" with a non-disclosable phone number.

By this time Helen had become frantic. Her heart was beating faster; she desperately needed sleep yet at the same time a dawning realisation started to grow in her mind.  The unthinkable had to be faced. Was she dealing with a legitimate company?
Or.....
 ....Had she been deceived? Fooled? Scammed?
In her mind, she replayed the events from her first viewing the impressive web site and the calls from the courteous Mr Pope.

No, no no she said to herself and then out loud..... that wonderful Mr Pope was a decent and honest individual... indeed he was....!..wasn't he?....or.....or...
Had this all been a charade?  A cleverly designed way to take her savings?
Was this unthinkable becoming not just possible, but probable?

What about Land Securities -the company she had checked online as being a reputable organisation?
In the next few hours, she tried to regain a semblance of composure.  Office hours came, so time so to phone  Land Securities, their London HQ number was on their website.  After much waiting and what seemed to be to Helen endless internal phone transfers with much senior staff, her awful suspicion became an irrefutable fact. Helen was told: Land Securities PLC had no connection to any company in Phuket using the name of Land Security whether by that name or by the name LS Holdings. The genuine Land Securities PLC told her they had nothing whatsoever to do with the bond sale to Helen; nor did they sanction any use of their logo.
They sympathised with her predicament and suggested toit may be a police matter.

Helen was by now totally devastated. Unable to move she sat on the floor next to her bed clutching the phone in her hand. Her face a crimson red and her breathing severely irregular.
 
Later that day her son Mathew got a phone call to say that his mother was dangerously ill and admitted to Greenview Healton Hospital.  A neighbour of Helen had heard the sound of wailing coming from inside Helen's house and eventually after the police broke in an ambulance arrived. When Mathew visited his mother in the hospital, she was in a critical state of shock and could barely speak.
He had never seen his mother in such a poor way. Mathew was determined to discover what had occurred.
Over the next week or so Mathew gained access to his mother's computer and was able to piece together events.
He had visited Helen's bank and spoken Mr Fuller who told him that the Assistant Manager Ms Tomkins had phoned Helen about large payments leaving her account over five days, but Helen had told her it was a private matter.
From the Bond Certificate and emails that Mathew discovered on Helen's computer, he concluded they were part of an elaborate confidence trick to steal his mother's savings. It had been successful.
Mathew also phoned the bank in Phuket, but it took a while to find someone who could converse with Mathew in understandable English. Eventually, the bank informed Mathew they could not discuss with him anything to do with the account of their customers. Only a court order could do that.
Years before Mathew had travelled a few times to Thailand when he was going through his addiction problems.
Mathew knew enough about  Thailand and the Thai authorities including the police that it would be doubtful they would or could do anything to get back his mothers money or even or to do any proper kind of investigation.
But he remembered when he was in Thailand, he had met some people who had become his friends who were on both sides of the law. He wondered if they were still around who could help him?
Mathew loved his mother dearly- more than anyone else on earth. Even more than his wife and unborn kid.
His 'Mah' had saved his life during the dark times of his addiction. It had been at great cost both emotionally and financially to his Mum and his late Dad.
He was determined no matter what it took to get back all or some of his mother's hard earned savings. If not he swore to himself, he would at least avenge what had happened to her.
Mathew believed his mother had not been greedy but simply wanted enough for proper living expenses.
Meanwhile on the rooftop restaurant of a centrally located Bangkok 5 star hotel:
Joey Logan was seated at the head of a table in opulent surroundings: Art Decor, table cloths and fine cutlery.  Next to him were his Thai girlfriend and some members of his girlfriends family who were not used to such luxuriant surrounding but who were impressed by the way the waiting staff paid such fawning attention to Joey.
Joey reflected that earlier when away from his girlfriend, he had video phoned to greet his estranged wife and daughters. Happiness abounded. Even his wife went out of her way to be polite and friendly. No doubt the large sum of money sent to her a few days before had sweetened the mood.

Joey returned his attention to consider the Thai family members who were sitting around the table showing broad smiles on their faces.  A live band was playing in the room, and a crooner was giving a decent Tony Bennett impersonation with the song: "The Good Life".
The good life, the good life Joey murmured as he held his girlfriend's hand. With his other hand, he raised a glass of champagne for a toast.
At virtually the same time thousands of miles away a distraught son stood beside a hospital bed and lying prone in front of him was his dear, dear mother: her life hanging in the balance.
Mathew Wilton swore revenge.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


© Copyright 2019 robert radcliff. All rights reserved.

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