Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Valley Perspective

Broderick's Debt to Society

March 16, 1997

Con artists come in all shapes and sizes, preying always on the weak and the desperate with their promises of easy money. Rarely, however, do they spin webs as elaborate and disturbing as the one created by M. Elizabeth Broderick, the self-described disciple of the Montana "freemen" movement sentenced last week to 26 years in federal prison for operating a bogus check scheme.

Broderick and her accomplices held regular seminars at which customers paid as much as $200 to learn how to write "comptroller's warrants"--bogus checks supposedly backed by liens against the federal government. Desperate for cash, many of Broderick's victims used the worthless paper to pay delinquent bills and ended up deeper in the hole. Broderick, who has called the federal government a fraud and renounced her citizenship, accepted payment only in good, old greenbacks, squirreling away hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As she defended herself in federal court, Broderick played a convincing patriot, arguing that she wanted only to help others get what they had coming from government. But U.S. District Court Judge Dickran Tevrizian saw through her charade. "You're not a patriot," he told her last week. Indeed, Broderick has a history of running scams from California to Colorado. The fake warrants were only the latest, most convenient way to separate people from their money. Investigators suspect Broderick's operation was among the largest scams in the country. But even with her out of the picture, thousands like her continue to operate.

From bogus checks to pyramid schemes, frauds and scams of all kinds cost vulnerable people untold billions of dollars. Telemarketing fraud alone is estimated to cost Americans $40 billion a year. Often, victims are blamed for being naive or overly trusting. But scam artists like Broderick are masters of manipulating their prey. Even the shakiest proposition sounds reasonable when the bank is threatening to foreclose. A rule of thumb: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|