Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lux et Not Much Veritas

Certain groups are vulnerable to being scammed. The elderly are often preyed upon, with their old-fashioned sense of trust turned back on them by criminals without morals or scruples. And then there are the illegal immigrants, the people who hide in the shadows and just want to make a decent living.

The illegals are not as naive as the old folks in the small rural enclave, so a hustler would have to be a bit more clever to get around any sense of distrust. A man looking to put one over on some illegal Irish immigrants in New York, for example, would appear to be quite a legitimate businessman if he were to set up shop at Yale University, for example.

Ralph Cucciniello managed to get hired by a Yale professor who was in need of a research assistant. The professor was working on a case, to get a man cleared of a murder charge. It was a Mafia hit, to be precise, and said professor must have thought that Mr. Cucciniello could blend in better and obtain the key facts that would allow the convicted murderer to go free. One would think that a professor at Yale would be pretty sharp, but one would be misled by such a presumption. The professor never bothered to do a background check on Mr. Cucciniello, just went ahead and hired him and gave him some space in the Yale law library to conduct his research for the case. As it turned out, Ralphie-boy had a rap sheet that detailed his many convictions for fraud.

With office space provided, and in a most prestigious setting, Mr. Cucciniello opened up shop. He advertised in the Irish community, claiming that he could obtain green cards via some previously unknown loophole in the law. From space that lent an air of credibility to his claims, the scam artist promised to help people become legal residents and escape the endless worry of being found out and sent back. At a cost of $5,000, he suckered in at least 50 people, but it could be more. Fearing deportation if they go public, potential victims of the scam would of course be hesitant to come forward and the full extent of the crime may never be known.

Thanks to the lack of oversight of the Yale University professor, Mr. Cucciniello was able to operate freely, and would still be running his scam today but for the outcry of a few of his victims. He has been charged in Manhattan with fraud and impersonating an attorney, and the police in New Haven (home of Yale University) are putting evidence together so that they can obtain a warrant for Cucciniello's arrest.

As your mammy often told you, if something sounds too good to be true, it isn't.

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