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Tag Archives: crime

  • All the World is Staged
    Look into the shady world of bet-fixing being done on football matches by the Chinese triads

    As his network grew, Perumal signed legitimate contracts with national federations in countries unaware of who he really was, such as Bolivia and South Africa, paying them as much as $100,000 to arrange their friendlies, often pairing them against higher-profile teams that were just looking for ready-made exhibitions. Perumal would set up the matches, promote them — and select the referees. Many friendlies go off without FIFA sanctioning, so often all a fixer like Perumal needed to do to stage an international friendly was find a stadium and pay a day’s rent.

    The matchups would attract the attention of bookmakers and the international betting market — if also a curious amount of red cards, penalty kicks and offside calls. FIFA paid refs only $350 per match, almost inviting the fix. “Every member association is responsible for organizing and supervising football in its country,” says FIFA spokesman Wolfgang Resch. “The control of referees and officials falls into it.”

  • The Ultimate Counterfeiter isn’t a Crook – He’s an Artist
    Another story about a scammer, but this time it’s about a German who tried to create the perfect counterfeit US $100.

    In 2002, just back from a trip to Majorca, Kuhl met up with a sometime associate of his named Sinan Elshani, who was known simply as the Albanian. Kuhl began complaining about his never-ending debt. Elshani commiserated and said he knew a way for both of them to get rich: print counterfeit stamps. He was acquainted with the right people, who would not only pay for the machines and supplies but also buy Kuhl’s fakes. He even promised to cover Kuhl’s studio rent. Kuhl eventually agreed.

    But it quickly became clear that they couldn’t obtain the right inks for their fakes or make the perforations look convincing. At that point, Kuhl says, he tried to back out of the deal. Elshani told him it was impossible: The client had spent a lot of money on the equipment. Unless Kuhl could cough up 50,000 euros, Elshani said, the artist risked an unpleasant visit from members of the Albanian mafia.

    Kuhl didn’t think he could pull off the stamps, and he claims that Elshani told him he’d have to make dollars instead. In any case, the false start with the stamps got him thinking about ways to improve his fake banknotes. “It’s just how my mind works,” he says. With Elshani pressuring him to pay off their Albanian creditors, Kuhl agreed to crank up his printing press.

  • Hello, I Am Sabu
    The story of one of the masterminds behind Anonymous and LulzSec who happens to live in the projects in NYC.

    That one of the world’s most influential hackers was the denizen of a New York City housing project struck many as cognitively dissonant. It shouldn’t have. In many ways, he’s a product of the culture of poverty he was brought up in. It’s a culture that produces outlaws of many different stripes. Monsegur was born in 1983, when his ­father was 16. His mother deserted the family, and his father entrusted his son to Monsegur’s grandmother Irma, 40 at the time. Irma, born in Puerto Rico, never mastered English, but she was devoted to her grandson, a quiet, well-behaved child whom ­everyone called Bubi. But child care was not his grandmother’s only vocation. She was “a player,” as a family lawyer said, and her apartment was a stash house for the family’s heroin business. Sabu’s father was a lead distributor, as was his aunt, a long-haired beauty; Monsegur was described as a delivery boy. Heroin was good business, and for a time, “the family was really powerful in the hood,” said a neighbor. ­Sabu’s father led the life of a successful entrepreneur, seeming to change cars and women monthly. He liked to peel bills from a wad of cash and treat all the neighborhood kids to ice cream.

  • Newton, Reconsidered
    As the Apple Newton nears its 20th anniversary, Time magazine takes a look back at how that revolutionary tech fairs in the age of smartphones and post-PDA.
  • Welcome to America, Plese Be On Time
    I’ve been curious what visitors to Toronto would want to visit and this link is similar. What would people from other cultures need to know about America before they visit?

    You might say that global food cultures tend to fall into one of two categories: utensil cultures and finger cultures. The U.S., somewhat unusually, has both: the appropriate delivery method can vary between cuisines, and even between dishes, and it’s far from obvious which is which. Baked chicken is a fork food, but fried chicken a finger food, depending on how it’s fried. If you get fried pieces of potato, it’s a finger food, unless the potato retains some circular shape, in which case use your fork. And so on. Confused yet?

    The addendum is classic

  • Manifest Destiny
    I was a fair ways through this article about the Poincaré Conjecture when I realized that I had read this article before! The part that tipped me off was reading about how a Chinese mathematician was greedy and wanted to grab the spotlight for “solving” the Poincaré Conjecture. Seems like a very Chinese thing to do.
  • The Making of Whitney Houston’s Debut Album
    An article from 1986 that’s poorly written, but adequate in conveying how Whitney was discovered in 1982 and what went into her highly successful debut. Even back then, there was a team manufacturing her success.
  • The Montauk Grifter
    A story about an individual who pretended they were in the food ownership and publishing industry. Always interested in reading about how con men pulled off their scams.

    On their next scheduled date, she proposed a test: Why don’t you go shopping and cook me dinner? Dan bought porterhouse steaks, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms. Leong paid for the groceries. They went back to his apartment. “It was like a frat boy cooking dinner,” she said. The former Rainbow Room chef and two-time James Beard nominee served her an oven-baked porterhouse steaks that he hadn’t bothered to sear and raw Brussels sprouts, thrown haphazardly on a plate. “He didn’t have any professional cooking gear, and his pantry was all canned food,” she says.

  • The Collector
    This story is about another coon man, but his cons are strictly to collect US presidents’ memorabilia!
  • The Arab world’s first ladies
    Discusses the duality between the controlled image of modern and pro-women first ladies and the actions of their husbands, especially during the Arab Spring.

Lately I’ve been obsessed with foursquare. People are saying that 4sq will be the next Twitter and it’s catching on pretty quickly. The premise is that you check-in where ever you are at, and you can see whether any of your friends are there or what cool things there are to do there. There’s also a game aspect, which is the most appealing to me, where you can earn badges based on your check-ins.

Now invariably when I mention 4sq, someone will mention Please Rob Me and how sharing your location online gives thieves an easy opportunity to identify when you’re not at home and rob you. Frankly I think this is bull.

If you get robbed, it’s either because a thief randomly picked your home to rob or someone you know knew you were out and robbed you. If it’s the former, then sharing your information online doesn’t hurt you. If it’s someone you know, then only in a small percentage of the case will sharing your location help them. I think it’s a small percent because usually your home is empty when you’re at work so if someone wanted to rob you, they should just wait until you’re at work! And that’s assuming that whoever is stalking you knows where you live IRL.

Sure sharing your location information is a risk, but I’m tired of people saying that it gives an opportunity for someone to rob you. If someone wants to rob you, this would only help them marginally. Actually I think a bigger problem is having people you don’t like show up where you are.

Coldplay is coming to town this summer, and their tickets went on sale a couple weeks ago at noon on Monday. I just happened to have a meeting then, and totally forgot about buying tickets until 1 something. I went on Ticketmaster and all the decent+ lower bowl tickets were gone. So I looked at the upper bowl – those tickets were cheaper anyways, being less than $40. There were actually good seats available and I thought about buying them, but didn’t. Why? Because Ticketmaster wanted to charge a $10 convenience charge PER TICKET. That’s more than 25% the face value. Add on to that the service charge, and taxes = NO THANKS!

If a 25% markup isn’t enough for providing online middle man services, Ticketmaster now wants to make even more money! They already have a monopoly on ticket selling, but they’re going to stretch their arm into concert promotions and venues by merging with Live Nation. This makes me angry and makes me hate the music industry even more. Why should I bother going to concerts if I have to put up with this rip off?

Even if the artists want to evade the system, like Trent Razor of the NIN, they can’t thanks to the monopoly. And now he is especially mad that Ticketmaster is branching into scalping:

Here’s the rub: TicketMaster has essentially been a monopoly for many years – certainly up until Live Nation’s exclusive deal ran out. They could have (and can right now) stop the secondary market dead in its tracks by doing the following: limit the amount of sales per customer, print names on the tickets and require ID / ticket matches at the venue. We know this works because we do it for our pre-sales. Why don’t THEY do it? It’s obvious – they make a lot of money fueling the secondary market. TicketMaster even bought a re-seller site and often bounces you over to that site to buy tickets (!

I was at the Chinese mall at Sheppard and Brimley the other day and was shocked, yes you heard it here first, SHOCKED to find that they no longer sold (english) pirated DVDs! Yes, it seems that the movie industry has finally cracked down on illegal DVD sales. I even saw one store that was closed (although maybe it was a weekday) with a paper saying that it’s illegal to sell movies with various logos (Disney, Warner Bros, etc).

You would think that being unable to sell English DVDs would break their business, but many are still open. Resorting to selling Chinese, adult and (predominantly) Filipino movies. In fact, the price for DVDs were 3 for $10, 67% more expensive than at PacMall. Perhaps signifying the danger in running this type of illegal business.

Thinking about pirated DVDs makes me want to dig up my Economics course notes; too bad I threw them away. Anyways, I was curious to see that if selling DVDs for $2 each can result in a profit, how much money were they pulling in when they were going for 3 for $20? For brevity, I’m not going to recalculate the costs, even though they were probably higher. I’ll just say that it costs $1 per DVD, which means that at that time, they were making over 500% profit!

As an aside, now I see a lot of random stores selling pirated DVDs as a means to boost their bottom line. You can buy DVDs with your Chinese buns, or get a hair cut and pick out some DVDs. These places probably go through a middleman to get their DVDs, and I’m guessing that after the middleman markup, wholesale cost for each DVD is $1. Which makes selling DVDs a great side business.

But back when they were going for $7 each, I’d expect the (true) demand was lower. If you wanted to watch 10 movies a month, maybe you would only buy 3 at PacMall, and the remaining you would rent download or skip. Now, for the same expenditure, you can watch all 10! I’m going to assume that most people operate with a fixed entertainment budget though, and not attempt to buy every movie they want to watch.

While the influx of supply lowered the cost, I think people get caught up in the package deals, so they end up buying movies that they didn’t really want to watch in order to fill up their deal. I guess the DVD vendors get a slightly larger volume to offset the lowered costs, but we as consumers get the better deal for sure since we’ve lowered their profit margin to a much more reasonable 200%.

We were at a dry goods store in PacMall on the weekend and the owner mentioned that she had to move since she could no longer afford the $6000/mth rent for the place. I assume that that cost includes all utilities, insurance, etc., but not inventory and of course salary. Adding a reasonable income of $4000/mth (which actually sucks for having to work 30 days in a month), that means a store has to clear $10k in profit a month in order to be sustainable. How do those clothing stores and hair salons do it?

It seems like they can’t really, and it feels as though a DVD store springs up every time one of them closes. There are so many that the competition has the price down to $2 a DVD! Are they profitable? Even at $2 a DVD, they are making a huge profit on each DVD sold. Here are some fermi calculations.

You can buy a 10-DVD duplicator for under $1000 at Canada Computers (hmm I wonder why there is a consumer market for these things?). Let’s say over the lifetime you market 20,000 discs so the average cost per disc is 5¢. You can probably duplicate in your spare time (i.e., over dinner or while watching TV) or get your lazy teenager/babysitter/housewife/cousin to switch around the discs when necessary. You’ll also need to somehow find the source copy of the movies and download them. Another monkey job that someone tangential can do. I’ll add another 5¢ overhead for the miscellaneous costs such as electricity. The DVD material itself should not be more than 20¢

You’ll also need some packaging, like a DVD case (10¢), a printed label, maybe a sticker on the DVD to identify what it is (for your benefit really since you will have piles of discs), and a little bag for your label and disc. 15¢ in total. Everything needs to get shipped so I’ll add 10¢ per disc. There are some other costs to running the store, you’ll need a DVD player, a TV and some shelves. I’d estimate your startup cost at $1000, or another 5¢ per DVD over the life of 20,000. The grand total comes to 65¢ in costs per DVD, which means over 200% profit even when selling for $2 a disc!

In order to make $10k a month, you’ll need to sell almost 7400 DVDs. That’s 740 customers that by $20 worth of DVDs each visit, or about 175 a week. On a weekend, I think they can sell (at least) $20 every 10 minutes, which is 48 customers in 8 hours. On the weekdays, let’s say they can find 1 customer every 30 minutes, which is another 16 customers per day. That’s enough to fill our quota and be sustainable!

I’ve been linking to news and updates about my former classmate Suresh who has had some (major) run-ins with the law recently. I’m not going to blog my speculation on whether he is innocent or not, or whether he would do such a thing or not; I will let the judicial system do their work. But one way or another, his life will never be the same. If he is convicted, well that’s self explanatory; and if he’s not, he will have to explain over and over what really happened.

Case in point, I haven’t been distributing the news much aside from what I blog, but it seems like everyone in my class knows about this incident. Now Suresh will have to forever explain to everyone he meets in elec2005 what the heck happened during reunions.