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Writings and musings on the latest web trends and life, advertising, design, projects, and news from an avid and prolific web designer.
Up and about since 2003.
Interesting Defunct United States Airlines
What I learned from the Boston Career Forum
Getting FancyUpload to Work
Google Plus bar color changer extension
Home Sweet American Culture
Install Android 2.2 Froyo on iPhone 3G on Windows with pics and video
An Engineer's Nightmare - Ocean Tower, South Padre Island
Setting up the Arduino Pro Mini and Bluetooth Mate on Mac
Mutterings from 30th Street Station
Python on the iPad
It’s somewhat depressing to see how many Ponzi schemes are unravelled every month. According to a LexisNexis compilation in October of 2014, there were “8 guilty pleas with 10 newly discovered schemes involving more $500 million in the aggregate”.
Nationwide Automated Systems claimed it “offers custom-designed wood cabinet options, designed to match the visual feel of the retail location”
Among the list of Ponzi schemes uncovered was one belonging to Nationwide Automated Systems, Inc (“NASI”), owned and operated by a certain Joel Gillis, 76. At his side, a man by the name of Edward Wishner, company treasurer, vice president, and secretary. Very little else is known about the duo, except that they lived in Woodland Hills, California, and managed to defraud over $100 million from some 2400 investors (many of whom were seeking reliable retirement savings income) in what is known as an “ATM leaseback scheme”, which had been running since 1996.
What makes this most interesting, however, is following the trail of voices of concern — as well as dismissal of concerns — leading up to the SEC’s intervention. On an online forum called Quatloos, a “cyber museum of scams and frauds”, comments about NASI start surfacing as early as August 2012.
I have met many clients who have been involved for over a decade and swear by their 20% returns but when I push them for more detailed descriptions of the machines they own. Unfortunately they don’t have solid answers other than they get checks each month. Ponzi’s can run for years until they implode on themselves. (August 2012, jbv)
I have tried hard to find any indication that Nationwide is legitimate but can’t. (December 2012, worried)
Alongside the detractors, you hear voices like these:
Joel Gillis and Nationwide Automated Systems, Inc. are the most honest and legit business and investment business you will ever find. I have been happily doing business and invested with them for the past 2 decades. (April 2013, ElenaPezzini)
The way it worked was this:
It was, of course, a Ponzi scheme:
Now, onto the juicy conversations spotted on Quatloos, bearing in mind that there’s no guarantee any of these are real investors. Instead, I like to think that these bring to light some real conversations people have about its legitimacy:
NAS has been out of machines and refused to take additional investments from me. I mean, that’s pretty big, a scam that didn’t want to take someone’s money? (January 2014, SomeYuppie)
and even calls to the SEC:
So, even if it isn’t a scam, it’s an illegal security. — So, who’s got a contact at the SEC? (January 2014, webhick)
Tednewsom, who remained one of the more prolific posters, wrote:
I actually did swing by their old office once, three or four years ago. Nice, quiet little neighborhood, business district but semi-residential– i.e., a very low-crime area. Their office was the only one room in the building with a spyhole in the door. That amused me, and, to this former investigator, spoke volumes. (January 2014, Tednewsom)
All hell does start breaking loose around page 16
I am a current investor at NASI. Things were OK for 3 years (when I purchased my first machine) until Aug 2014. Usually we get our check or deposit in the first 5 days of the month, but not this time…
On 8.5.2014, a NASI rep emailed us, “I just spoke with Joel and learned that this months’ checks are being mailed today. I believe it has something to do with the fact that he’s been out of town. Not to worry.”
On 8.9.2014, a NASI rep emailed us, ” August’s delay in payments has been the result of Nationwide contracting with an outside firm to manage the monthly disbursements to investors. This system conversion has not gone smoothly, and Nationwide has dismissed the firm.”
I finally got the check on 8.13, but only to find it bounced on 8.18
So of course no August payment in my bank account yet. (August 2014, Funlife)
This is followed up by a posting of a letter sent to investors from Gillis and Wishner:
Last month we had a setback and except for a few sales of ATMs back to us, most people understood that sometimes businesses have problems.
Last month I wrote to you saying that the checks for September would go out between the 8th and the 10th. Unfortunately we have another obstacle.
We have been issued a Subpoena by the Security Exchange Commission and have been trying to accommodate their requests for various documents and records. (September 2014, Concerned Citizen)
Gillis and Wishner both plead guilty in January and their sentencing is now set for July 20, 2015. If you’re interested in reading more about the details of what comes next, including how much money will be returned to investors, the NASI Victims blog (listed below) is a good resource.
I’ve been a big fan of the Germaphobe’s Guide to Buying a Metrocard in it being an elegant exercise of understanding the design decisions behind the things we use every single day. I decided I’d take a similar exercise to the Tokyo subway ticket vending machines, which in some shape form the backbone of the […]
This past week I had the chance to ski in Vail, Colorado, and I took with me my BadElf GPS Pro as I skied up and down, into the Back Bowls and the Blue Basin. I’m always interested in recording all sorts of odd bits of data, so I figured my ski tracks would be […]
Background: In 2013 I traveled 30,000 miles across Asia and New Zealand. I kept a web-based and paper-based diary, which was only recently recovered. This post will grow day by day as I add one new entry for each day I traveled. 2/7 Hong Kong Has it ever occurred to you how it might feel […]
Everyone knows Japan is a transit heaven, a carefully coordinated orchestra of trains and buses that shepherds what amounts to the entire population of Switzerland on any given day. Having moved from Switzerland, the other transit heaven, the one thing that I miss the most is a nationally unified transport structure that, coupled with an […]
I’m a card carrying member of the heavy, bulky DSLR Canon fanboy group, so getting my hands on a Lumix DMC-CM1 was something that took a bit of warming up to. But at the end of the day, it’s what camera you have in your pocket that matters most, and this has turned out to […]
Naoshima’s art museums feel like a cross between a hidden concrete paradise and an asylum. Tadao Ando is a genius, and Naoshima is an odd but deeply satisfying testament to his vision. Naoshima sits about an hour north of Takamatsu by boat, 3 hours south of Tokyo by train, and is more or less a […]