The old tricks never change; they simply acquire new disguises.
The latest to carry the heavy stench of snake oil has been making the rounds at a hotel in Lancaster. There, a woman named M. Elizabeth Broderick has been luring the gullible, the uninformed, the poor, and others from miles around. Some may just be looking to skirt their financial responsibilities. Maybe some are just looking for a free ride.
The gist of Broderick's message is simple: Our federal government and our nation's entire financial system, are a sham. Said bogus government owes her big bucks and, she teaches, owes her seminar participants as well.
It must sound pretty wonderful for anyone naive enough, or desperate enough, to believe it: Just pay off all your debts with the "warrants," or checks she supplies.
Cut through the rhetoric, however, and you are left with something else entirely: a lot of folks passing off worthless paper as real money.
Who gets hurt by this? Certainly not the federal government, which would never be so silly as to honor such tripe. The folks who get hurt are the people who have bought into Broderick's so-called seminars, and those innocent citizens and businesses who have made the mistake of accepting those scripts.
Federal officials say that getting into one of these "seminars" costs $125 in advance or $200 at the door. And for $100 more, you can buy a computer program showing you how to write more worthless paper. (Broderick accepts cashier's checks, money orders, and cash.) That's a pretty mean price for people already swimming in real debt. But there are further costs as well.
Consider Nancy Cole, for example. She's not part of the federal megalith. She's a local resident and a single mother of two children. Her Canyon Country house tenant gave her a bogus check signed by Broderick for nine months rent. Now she is spending more of her dwindling resources by trying to evict the nonpaying tenant.
"For anybody who thinks this group is not harming people, this has cost me every dime I have in savings," Cole told a reporter.
And what about folks like Esperanza Cardenas, who recently had to appear in federal court to try to understand why her car had been repossessed. There was an easy answer: She had "paid" for it with a worthless check signed by Broderick, and had lost out on the cost of the seminars.
You'll hear a lot of bluff and bluster from Broderick about how she is a sovereign citizen battling a hostile government on behalf of the people. Oh, please.
The fact remains that a federal court judge has barred her from issuing more "checks," and rightly so.
Moreover, Times correspondent Nicholas Riccardi reports that, in 1987 in Colorado, Broderick pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of operating a pyramid scheme. In 1988, in a settlement of a civil suit, Broderick promised to pay a $30,000 fine for having conducted another illegal business and pledged never to operate another pyramid scheme in Colorado.
Now, we have "checks" worth no more than the paper they are printed on. They would have been useful for one purpose alone, to pay for the "advice" gleaned from those equally worthless "seminars."
Ah, but we're forgetting ourselves; Broderick accepts only real money, backed by the full faith and credit of the federal government she conveniently claims to hate.