Scoundrels on line

Published Friday, January 30, 2004
by Dale M. King

Deep in the bowels of the World Wide Web lies an accumulation of scoundrels.

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A mouse click on a secretive Web site may unfold the sins and shortcomings of a variety of white-collar rats.
Link by link, names are associated with other names in what the Web’s anonymous author surmises to be a vast conspiracy.
Readers who sink into this cyber-nadir will see creatures flittering around like bats in a cave that never see the light of day.
Many of those named on the site see little light of day, since they are languishing in jail cells. Others, though, have tasted their just desserts and decided to become “inactive,” the Web site says. Some have gone back into mainstream society, having paid for their crimes and gone back to the straight and narrow.
Still, the cabal of culprits remains locked in a vast electronic maze, their identities encoded on metallic chips with a cornucopia of other data.
For weeks, the Boca Raton News has been investigating the presence of white-collar criminals, scammers and purveyors of securities fraud who have holed up in the guarded and gated communities around the city.
The public has responded with e-mails asking for more, saying the articles have “just scratched the surface.”
The Web site listing a vast array of ne’er-do-wells offers some with Boca connections.
One who shows up with disquieting frequency is Charles Ira “Chuck” Fremer, identified as director of Foreign Currency International and Capital Concept Marketing, both with addresses at 4700 NW Second Ave., Boca Raton.
In 2001, the Pennsylvania Securities Commission issued a cease and desist order against Capital Concept Marketing and Fremer “to halt the offer and sale of unregistered securities” in that state.
Scott Lane, assistant director of the commission’s Division of Enforcement, Litigation and Compliance, said the firm offered in October 2001 the sale of accounts receivable purchase agreements for payday advance loans offering a 36 percent rate of return. A month later, Lane said, Fremer’s firm – on behalf of U.S. Funding Co.– offered funding agreements said to pay 20 to 25 percent.
Soon after, the state stepped in and ordered the company “to make no more solicitations.”
In addition, a complaint from the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey accused U.S. Funding Corp. and Angelica Gwinnett of Paramus, N.J., of “defrauding investors” by allegedly selling the high-rate-of-return securities from October 2001 to April 2002.
The complaint says U.S. Funding skimmed 35 percent as a commission for Capital Concept Marketing. Swinnett allegedly took $300,000 of investor funds and “misappropriated” it. Among those “misappropriations” as a weekend in Las Vegas, the complaint says.
Fremer’s name also shows up as an agent of a number of South Florida firms.
The News could not find a telephone number for Fremer.
Another person whose name popped up frequently was Jayson Scott Kline. He was identified on the Web as a serial scammer who was barred in 1992 from selling securities for “[failure] to uphold high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade in the conduct of his commodity futures business.”
A 1992 news release from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission says Kline, along with Richard Love of Sunrise and Bachus & Stratton Commodies of Pompano Beach violated anti-fraud provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act.
Those involved “neither admitted nor denied the allegations in the CFTC’s complaint.”
Kline was listed as an associate of Fremer. Both allegedly owned companies called Foreign Currency International, Kline in Georgia, Fremer in Florida.
In 1998, a district attorney in Georgia investigated Kline. He is also listed as a director of Gibraltar Monetary Corp., located at 4700 NW Second Ave., Boca Raton – which lists Fremer as its main director. Thomas Clancy of Sunrise is the firm’s third director.
The list says Joseph J. Marchiano, a director of Alpine Financial Corp. of 1900 Glades Road, Boca Raton, also ran afoul of the securities law.
A CTFC news release says Marchiano was acting as a registered introducing broker, but was actually not registered. He was ordered to pay a $10,000 civil penalty.
In addition, he was also named in an earlier proceeding involving American Futures Group. The CTFC said that from September 1991 to December 1993, Marchiano, George J. Perk and Thomas G. Reeves “violated the anti-fraud provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act and CFTC regulations by, among other things, cheating and defrauding customers and potential customers by making false, deceptive or misleading representations and omitting material facts concerning the likelihood of profit and risk of loss.’
The complaint says employees in American Futures Group’s Aventura office “induced customers to reinvest proceeds or purchase additional commodity options contracts,” practices known as “rolling” and “loading” for the “sole purpose of maximizing commissions, at the expense of customers.”
Another name on the site is that of attorney Kim Mollica of Boca Raton. She is not, however, accused of any wrongdoing.
The site lists her as an agent for nearly two dozen South Florida firms – including the Miss Nude Florida Pageant Inc.
The News left a message at her office this week, but the call was not returned.

Hemp hoopla

You can’t smoke your clothes,” points out Ira Schneider, bringing to an end any stereotype placed on the garments sold in his Boca Raton store.
For Schneider, selling all hemp products is not a gimmick to draw pot-smoking teens into his shop or lure in middle-aged adults trying to relive the Hippie era.
Selling products made from hemp is about the environment and education, says the 31-year-old owner of the Hemp Factory at 503 N.E. 20th St.
“I’m for anything that can save the planet,” said the New Jersey native, who opened the small boutique in 1996 just blocks from his current location. Schneider, who claims his store is the oldest of its kind in Florida, is one of only a handful of exclusively hemp product shops in the state.
“I’m always trying to educate people,” said Schneider, whose curiosity in the hemp plant grew out of his interest in the environment. “I know just about everything there is to know about it.”
Among the items that can be purchased at the shop are hemp shoes, shorts, shirts, skirts, wallets, yoga wear, hats and American flags. There are even edibles such as hemp lollipops, truffles, pepper sauce and hemp seed snack bars. In addition, the shop sells suntan oil, soap and hair-care products made from hemp oil.
Schneider stresses that not a single product in his store can get a person high because hemp – unlike the more well known street marijuana – has extremely low levels of THC, the drug that produces the psychoactive high in pot.
“You can smoke an acre of hemp and not get high,” Schneider said. “Marijuana is the flower. Hemp is the plant. It grows like a stalk. Worldwide it is accepted everywhere. Only in the States is there a stigma attached to it.”
Schneider, as do other advocates of hemp, hails the plant for not only its environmental benefits but its versatility as well.
It has been estimated that hemp can be made into 25,000 different products and among the more historical items made from the plant was the first pair of Levis jeans and the paper for the first and second drafts of the U.S. Constitution.
“There are no chemicals needed to grow it, unlike cotton,” Schneider said. “This is a true natural fiber.”
Advocates also point out its use as a clean fuel source, its usefulness as a paper and its oil as a healthy alternative to other cooking oils.
Due to the prohibition of marijuana in the U.S. in the 1930’s, hemp fabric, oil and seeds must be imported into the country from countries such as China and Romania, which is where Schneider gets the material for his clothing.
“It’s a multi-billion dollar business,” Schneider said. “Every industrialized nation in the world produces it. We’re the only idiots that don’t. Our country is run by kings, it’s not a democracy. We don’t vote on laws in this country. The politicians are protecting their industries.”
For this reason and the fact that it’s a high-end fiber that does not mold, mildew or hold odors, says Schneider, that the clothes can be pricey. A shirt is his store can cost as much as much as $70.
“They [clothes] do not feel like burlap sacks,” he said. “This is not crap fiber.”
Schneider says the shop grosses about $30,000 a month, but more importantly for him, he says it has opened the door for other careers. A Jack of all trades, Schneider manufactures women’s clothing, is a hair salon consultant, a hairstylist and real estate agent.
“I spend about 16 hours a week at this store,” said Schneider, who helped co-found the Hemp Industries Association, a trade organization. “My plate is full. I have no time to be a burnout [pothead]. I’m too busy.”
And although Boca may not appear to be the perfect market for this type of alternative shop, Schneider says otherwise.
“Hemp is high-end so you have to be somewhere where people can afford it,” said Schneider, who also owned a hemp shop in Coral Springs, but later closed it. “Boca is the only town in Palm Beach County that is liberal. People here are educated. They have brains and smarts.
“If any unique business is going to make it anywhere in the world, it is Boca. There is enough money and people,” said Schneider, adding that his clientele ranges from ages 35-50. “This is an international hot spot. Boca loves me.”

No paper ballot receipts in 2004, says LePore

Palm Beach elections supervisor says

Published Saturday, January 24, 2004
by Dale M. King

No matter how much U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler stomps and screams about the need for paper election ballot receipts, it’s not going to happen this year, said Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore.

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“There’s nothing I can do to put the printers on the machines,” she said. “The state legislature prescribes that procedure.” Wexler, a vocal proponent of paper receipts to ensure vote count accuracy and personal accountability, is suing LePore and Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood, accusing them of “failing to ensure that Floridians will have their votes recorded accurately” by not providing receipts.
Deferring comments about the suit to her attorney, LePore said she opposes paper receipts for a variety of reasons. There’s the cost of purchasing printers – 6,000 of them for Palm Beach County alone. Poll workers would have to learn to change paper in the machines. And then there’s the question of what language the receipts would be printed in. Already, Palm Beach County ballots are printed in several languages.
The proposed use of paper receipts is also drawing heavy fire from the disabled community, she said. They feel a printed-out document compromises their right of privacy.
In his push for paper receipts, Wexler has pointed to problems with the recent recount in the District 91 House race as reason to provide voters with a paper trail.
In that district that is mainly in Broward County, but includes four precincts in Boca Raton, the eventual winner, Ellyn Bogdanoff, outpolled Oliver Parker by only 12 votes. That triggered an automatic recount.
When elections officials found 134 Broward County ballots that recorded no preference – known as “undervotes” – it triggered concerns.
Bogdanoff went on to win the election. But LePore said it is not unusual for a voter to go to the polls, yet not cast a ballot.
Wexler is moving ahead with his lawsuit. In fact, according to his aide, Lale Mamaux, a hearing is scheduled Monday at 8:45 a.m. in the Palm Beach County Courthouse in West Palm Beach on his request to expedite the case. The matter is to be heard by Judge Karen Miller.
The congressman hasn’t stopped there. In a jump across party lines, Democrat Wexler has written to Republican Gov. Jeb Bush asking him to “correct the inequities that exist in Florida before another national election debacle occurs.”
“Even though touch-screen machines allow voters to review their ballot choices electronically,” Wexler told Bush, “without a final tangible ballot verified by an individual voter, there is no way of knowing if all votes were properly recorded.”
LePore has said the new electronic voting apparatus has redundant memory that prevents inaccurate voting.
But Wexler told Bush that voters are more savvy because of the 2000 presidential election problems in Florida. “All Americans better recognize the importance of being able to conduct fair, accurate and timely recounts. Gov. Bush must insist that voting machines be outfitted with ballot printers.”
LePore said if the legislature changes the law and requires printers, she will comply. But she said she has no money to purchase the equipment.
Having been in Tallahassee this past week, she said she sees nothing in the legislative hopper aimed at requiring printers for voting machines.
And even if the legislature takes action, she said, printers have to be tested several times over before they can be connected.
In the meantime, the 2004 election season has already begun. District 91 and the city of Delray Beach have already held elections. Municipal voting and the Florida Presidential Primary are scheduled for March 9

Cosmic Controller?

Hans-Jurgen Hirschganger says he has telekinetic abilities that enable him to move stars.
He simply folds his hands behind his head, focuses on the stars, and enters a trance of deep concentration. He then asks that the stars move a little to the left, and then to the right, and according to a select group of people, the stars comply.

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The karate instructor from Frankfurt, Germany, said he selects dim stars because brighter stars are more difficult to manipulate.
“I tell him go left, and go right,” said Hirschganger, 49, who also says he can also move stars by request over the telephone.
According to Hirschganger’s translator Dirk Friedrich, the powerful man wills the stars “out of orbit” and moves them between 5 and 10 diameter lengths of the star, which is plainly visible from Earth.
“As the stars are in the orbit, they move like the earth and the sun in special positions,” said Friedrich. “He is able to move them outside of those positions.”
The alleged repositioning of the stars does not affect earth or the rest of the galaxy, according to Hirschganger, who merely performs the cosmic adjustments as a novelty.
“He wouldn’t do it if it had consequences,” said Friedrich. “When he says stop, they will go back to the old positions.”
Last Friday Hirschganger was given an opportunity to prove himself.
He traveled overseas to the James Randi Educational Foundation in South Florida to put his star-shifting abilities to the test.
The foundation, dedicated to providing reliable information about paranormal claims, offers one million dollars to anyone who can show evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power under observable conditions.
Founder James Randi, who travels the world giving lectures on paranormal claims, said he has tested hundreds of cases in the eight years the foundation has be open, but this was the first attempted star-moving.
Randi, 75, helps design the protocol for testing the supernatural powers, which must be acceptable to the applicant. Hirschganger’s test involved video taping a cluster of stars from the Buehler Planetarium at Broward Community College as he moved one prearranged star. Several independent observers then viewed the tapes on a giant screen and were asked to identify which, if any, of the stars moved.
After the completion of the test, Hirschganger was confident that the stars had moved, but the viewers thought differently.
“It failed completely, as expected,” said Randi, who called Hirschganger “exceedingly naïve, with no notion of how the world really works.”
But the man isn’t taking that as a final answer. Through the translator, he explained that 20 years ago he discovered his extraordinary abilities while training to be the world champion in karate.
He was running every day to get in shape, sometimes in the rain, and he noticed that he always came down with a cold on the days after he ran in the rain, said Friedrich.
Frustrated by this setback in his training, Hirschganger said he started concentrating on the clouds releasing the rain, and asked that they vacate the sky above his head. To his satisfaction, the rain stopped.
This made Hirschganger wonder what else he could relocate, and soon enough, he had harnessed his power to move celestial bodies, he said.
Insisting that the lens used to capture the movements of the star was too small, Hirschganger traveled back to the United States last week for another chance, but he’s not going to get it.
“This is one of the sillier claims that we’ve had,” said Randi. “I won’t entertain any further testing of him. We’ve got too many important things to do.”
The million-dollar prize has yet to be claimed.

Make sure the wine complements your restaurant meal Don’t be afraid to reject offerings that are tainted or ‘cooked’

Published Friday, October, 4, 2002
by Sara and Monty Preiser

Reviewers’ note: It is rare for one food or wine writer to expressly disagree with another in print, but we were so unimpressed with the Sept. 22, 2002, Palm Beach Post reprint of a Wall Street Journal article on “Wine Country,” that we have to comment.

Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, with whom we often disagree, frequently write the Journal’s wine articles. However, as a rule, we respect the differences in the tastes of people, and so we say nothing. But this widely circulated wine country article, on the other hand, begs for a rebuttal. It is not only off base, but also in a different ballpark from an accurate analysis of certain wineries. To say, as the team does, that Freemark Abbey, Carneros Creek, Geyser Peak, Clos Pegas and Dry Creek are classified as the “Best Wineries in Napa and Sonoma” is simply ludicrous. While some of these wineries do in fact make some good products, we doubt any other wine writer believes they rank in the upper echelon, and we say that there are few, if any, wines made by these wineries that have received scores of 90 or above from any recognized rating entity. Facts are facts.

Wine Etiquette

Few people choose to dine at a restaurant that serves food they don’t like. Fewer still will order food without having some understanding of what they will be served.
And even fewer would accept a dish presented to them if it was not cooked properly, or was spoiled in some manner. To the above, we can all agree, can we not?
That is why we are so often amazed that those who profess to enjoy fine dining, or aspire to learn about it, may be found frequenting establishments that have poor wine lists and/or wine knowledge, choosing wines without any logical basis, and/or accepting a wine even if it is not as it was made to be.
We thought we would discuss how to best enjoy your wine experience in a restaurant, and at the same time, give you information that will make it more comfortable for you to deal with a restaurant – whether its staff is knowledgeable about wine or not.
Let us first take note of the obvious – this is a wine column. Thus, we assume our readers would prefer the option of enjoying a good wine with their meal.
In the same vein, we feel restaurants have an obligation to provide reasonable selections. Unfortunately, while there are an increasing number of restaurants with good wine lists, far too many spend very little time in creating an inventory of any distinction whatsoever.

Bringing your own

We recommend the diner seek out those restaurants with a good list and patronize them. Consult “The Wine Spectator,” use our dining and wine columns, call a restaurant for a fax of its wine list or talk to friends. But check out what the restaurant offers.
After some research, if you don’t like what the establishment where you want to dine offers, call and see if you can bring a bottle of your choosing for a reasonable corkage charge (between $10 and $20). In our area, almost all restaurants of note permit this. If we find one that does not, or charges more than $20, we simply don’t go because management does not understand the industry. It is people who care about wine that they should hope dine at their establishment, and if the restaurant cannot please them in this regard, then the establishment should let them please themselves.
A final two words on taking your own wine. If the restaurant in fact has a nice list and you still bring a special wine of your own, it is extremely bad form to bring one carried by the restaurant. Also, if you have more than two people and the list is reasonable, it is nice to buy one from the restaurant as well.
How can you best ensure you will choose a good bottle if you order at the restaurant? If you have your own ideas of what you want, require that your server show you the year and any other designations (i.e., vineyard) if this information is not on the wine list, no matter how long it takes and no matter how many bottles you have to see. This information should be included on lists, especially when they can easily be printed daily.
After ordering, be sure to check that the wine is exactly what you requested (same year and proper vineyard or appellations) before the bottle is opened. Many errors occur here because a restaurant or its servers may not know wine quality is vastly affected by the year in which, and the place where, the grapes are grown.

Matter of taste

After you taste the wine, if it tastes tainted (about 1 in 15 corks nowadays allow bacteria to seep into the wine) or “cooked” (when a wine is not stored or transported properly, allowing it to become too hot and, thus, taste affected), be sure to call it to the attention of whoever knows the most about wines in the restaurant (you may have to ask).
If you are sure there is a problem, stand your ground and refuse to accept the wine. If you aren’t sure, you may have to accede to the judgment of the restaurant’s expert. By the way, it is not snobbish to smell a cork. If it’s dank or otherwise bad, you needn’t bother to taste.
Once you have the wine you requested, don’t let the server over pour your glass. Some restaurants do this as policy so that you will drink faster and will have to order another bottle to accompany the end of your meal. Most often, there is no unethical purpose, and the uninformed and untrained simply think a glass should be filled.
Take charge and instruct your server how to do it properly if necessary. You don’t want more than a half-full glass so you can swirl and open the wine to the air.
Be sure you drink your wine at the right temperature (see earlier column).
Most importantly, you have to believe wine is like any other product you buy. If it isn’t right, you want it fixed. Forget the so-called “snob” label. You won’t eat a steak that isn’t fresh, and you shouldn’t drink a wine in the same condition. Be steadfast. You’ll enjoy it more.