Who’s Cheating America?: Murky Waters

image credit: tallahasseegrapevine.com

I try to avoid politics here on the blog as much as possible. (Except when I’m writing books about it.) But if there’s one viewpoint I expect all thoughtful Americans to share it’s the old 90s slogan: Work Hard And Play By The Rules.

We can all agree on this, surely! We want hardworking people who play by the rules to do well. We can disagree with what this means for governmental policy, but I don’t really think anyone can disagree with the idea that working hard and playing by the rules should be valued by our society. (If you prefer instead laziness and/or cheating, you’re in a different political universe.)

With that in mind, I’m introducing a new series. Who’s taking shortcuts? Who’s not playing by the rules? I’m not focusing on the big scandals, whether they be financial institutions or the well-covered trials and tribulations of the politicelebrity class.

Rather, I’m focusing on the little guys. The next-door neighbors who bend the rules, who cross the lines. The get-rich-quick schemers. The ones who aren’t working hard. The ones who aren’t playing by the rules.

America, who’s cheating?

Here’s a story about a man named Waters who lived in Massachusetts. He opened a rare coin business – oh, you know those kind of guys! Passionate about their hobbies. A little nerdy. You see them in the mall, standing behind their counter, and you think: well, god bless him, he’s probably been collecting coins since he was a kid. Now he ekes out a living at it.

And you also think:

That store will be closed in six months.

Right? Coin collecting? Why not just open a juice bar or a bookstore? Doomed, doomed, doomed. Well, this man also decided to open up a couple of other entities: a broker-dealership (i.e. seller of stocks) and an investment adviser (i.e. someone who handles other people’s money).

So far, so good. That shy little coin collector has a real job on the side. Nothing dishonest about that.

Except… maybe there was.

The U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts charged Waters with an array of securities fraud and other violations on October 17, 2012. On November 29, 2012, Waters pleaded guilty to sixteen counts of securities fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, and obstruction of justice arising out of both the conduct that is the subject of the Commission’s civil action and a criminal scheme through which Waters defrauded clients of his rare coin business out of as much as $7.8 million.

Oh no! What was happening? Ripping off other collectors? Maybe he was just smarter than they were? Knew more about the coins? Maybe he was just very good at buying and selling?

Under this scheme, Waters defrauded coin customers out of as much as $7.8 million by selling coins at prices inflated, on average, by 600% and by inducing coin purchasers to return coins to him, on the false representation that he would sell those coins on the customers’ behalf, when, in fact, he sold most or all of the coins and kept the proceeds for himself.

Ouch. Anything else?

The criminal information further alleges that Waters engaged in money laundering through two transactions totaling $77,000.

Well, what’s a little money laundering among friends? And anyway, it’s not like he lied about it when he was caught. He fessed up right away, didn’t he?

Finally, the criminal information alleges that Waters made multiple misrepresentations to Commission staff, including that there were no investors in his investment-related partnerships, in order to conceal the fact that investor money was misappropriated in a fraudulent scheme. Waters is charged with obstruction of justice related to this conduct.

D’oh! But apart from the coin issues, what about the investment advisory business? Surely he helped people there, right? Made money for their pensions? Exercised prudence?

According to the criminal information, from at least 2007 through 2012, Waters used fictitious investment-related partnerships to draw in investors, misappropriate their investment money, and spend the vast majority of it on personal and business expenses and debts.

They were sophisticated investors, I trust? Pension funds? Investment banks?

Waters is alleged to have raised at least $839,000 from at least thirteen investors, including $500,000 from his church in March 2012.

His church??? So depressing.

So what happens to this cheater? Does crime pay in America? Not always!

As a result of his guilty plea to this criminal conduct, Waters was sentenced on April 26, 2013 to 17 years in federal prison and three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $9,025,691 in restitution and forfeiture.

And final judgment was entered by a Massachusetts federal court on December 4, 2013.

Remember, everyone! Beware the Comic Book Guy, the Coin Collector Guy, the Baseball Card Guy, and the Smiling Philatelist. Particularly when they’re also offering to invest your money in fictitious investment-related partnerships.

The Race: New Formats Available

The Race: A Novella is expanding its reach to new territories and now… new formats! I’ve chosen Smashwords as the distributor for all non-Amazon stores.

Smashwords will eventually distribute The Race into online stores like Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple, and several others, including libraries and subscription services. I’ll post all those links when they’re available. For now, you can choose your format from the book’s Smashwords page. Epub, mobi (Kindle), pdf, rtf, lrf, pdb and txt are all available. You can also elect to download samples of the book in various formats or read the book online. 

Many thanks to Mark Coker and the people at Smashwords for helping to get The Race: A Novella into as many readers’ hands as possible. As an author once said to me, “I hope my book makes us both a lot of money.” (Of course, the author was Michael Lewis, and the book did make him a lot of money, though it didn’t do much for me.)

Onward and upward!

Welcome, International Readers!

I’ve been very pleased by how many international readers have visited me here at jackewilson.com. And in fact, I’ve been a little remiss in focusing only on links here in the U.S. So for your convenience, I thought I’d share the international links to The Race(Or at least to the Kindle versions – the epub versions are coming soon, I promise.)

Although The Race is set in Wisconsin, I’d like to think it has some universal appeal. In fact, I think anyone, anywhere who has to live with politics and politicians will find something recognizable in the narrator’s attempts to understand the former governor he’s tasked with following around. What do campaigns do to politicians? What kind of people are they? Who do we elect to govern us, and why? You don’t need to know Madison from Milwaukee to find those questions compelling.

So without further ado, here is the international lineup. Many thanks to all readers in all countries – and I hope you enjoy the novella!

And of course, the U.S.:

Free excerpts available at Amazon or here on the website. (And also here.)

Ten Bold Predictions for 2014: An Analysis

Digital Book World has a list of ten bold predictions for ebooks digital publishing in 2014. Some of them delve into brave new world territory, but for those of us who have been around for a while, who can remember the days before you could carry a device in your pocket that can make phone calls, take pictures, and immediately provide the name of the closest Five Guys as well as the actor who played Joey Pants in the Sopranos – well, every year seems like a brave new world.

While the article is somewhat pitched toward folks in the industry who make a living off of these sorts of developments (or who are afraid of losing their jobs), I find myself drawn, as always, to the impact on readers and writers, the only two communities I really care about. (Sorry, investors and publishers and agents and distributors!)  And in that spirit, it’s prediction number six that interests me the most:

6. More publishers will endorse the subscription ebook model by doing business with Oyster, Scribd and other similar services.

Continue reading

Small Press Shoutout: The Permanent Press!

I’ve decided to return to one of the blog’s most popular features, the Small Press Shoutout. This week we take a look at The Permanent Press, which has been cranking out titles since 1978.  Started by husband-and-wife team Martin and Judith Shepard, their catalog includes several award-winning mysteries and the undersung Icelandic novelist Halldor Laxness (a personal favorite of mine).

The name of the press refers to their policy of keeping their entire backlog in print, which I’m guessing is easier now than it was twenty-five years ago.

These guys love fiction. I found an interesting discussion of this on Mark’s Cockeyed Pessimist blog, which recently addressed the question of why they publish novels “95% of the time”:

My belief is that in any culture, at any age, the vast majority of the great books that are handed down, decade after decade and century after century are fiction. Following  Homer’s The Iliad and his sequel, The Odyssey, came the great novelists of  yesteryear: Dostoyevsky, Chekov, Gogol, Dickens, Chaucer, Jane Austin, Fitzgerald, Boccaccio, Umberto Eco, Dante, Italo Calvino, Rabelais, Hugo, Stendahl, Balzac, Halldor Laxness, Cervantes, Márquez, Kundera, Mark Twain, Faulkner, Hemmingway, Dos Passos, Poe…the list is endless. So if one’s interest lies in discovering novelists who have the talent to write exceptional fiction, why not cultivate and publish them and hope some of them will make a contribution to our culture—which surely needs a lift, given the great decline in fiction in general and the astronomical rise in non-fiction, which includes celebrity bios and countless “How-To” books—how to lose weight, make money, find partners, find serenity, find God, evaluate collectables, write screenplays, prevent aging… this list is endless, as well, and unlikely to survive the test of time.

Bravo! Fiction is important, fiction is necessary, fiction is a testament to what civilization and the human endeavor is all about. Fiction represents – fiction is – us at our finest! Could there be a better attitude for a publisher to have?

Well… let’s look at Judith’s: Continue reading

Jacke Wilson News: What’s Up for 2014

Readers, I’m working hard. Here are some new things I hope to roll out in the first half of 2014:

The Race: A Novella

  • New Cover (already finished!)
  • International links (scheduled for next Monday)
  • Epub version and wider distribution (finally!)
  • Print version (yes! at last!)

New Releases

  • The Promotion: A Novella – Takes a look at the insanity of biglaw recruiting and hiring.
  • The Blow: A Novella –  Ever wonder what it’s like to work next to a billionaire? What do you become? Wonder no more!
  • The Biglaw Trilogy – I hope to bundle all three novellas into one easy-to-read package.

Blogging Etc.

  • Continued service to my loyal readers at jackewilson.com.
  • Other avenues to reach my audience – Goodreads, Amazon.com author page, Facebook, Twitter, and more.
  • Doing my best to bring you the news and keep spirits high.

And of course (and as always): Onward and Upward!

Indie Publishing: 2013 Wrapup and Predictions for 2014

Of course I’m somewhat biased toward 2013 as being a good year for independent publishing, since that was the year I started publishing independently myself. But it was also a good year for the rest of the indie publishing world. Dean Wesley Smith has an excellent summary (with some looks ahead to 2014 as well).

Dean Wesley Smith is one of the canniest assessors of publishing I know (as is his wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, whom I’ve linked to several times in the past). He pulls no punches – one of the pleasures of reading him is the firmness and decisiveness of his opinions, even when I disagree or am uncertain. He’s not lukewarm about what he thinks.  For some reason his style and voice remind me of the great baseball writer Bill James – one of those guys who thinks before he writes, states his argument plainly, backs up what he says, stakes out new territory, and ruffles feathers when it’s necessary.

What I found fascinating about his summary is that the major changes he describes (and predicts) are mainly to traditional publishers – in particular mainstream presses, authors, and agents. In his view, the indie publishing world is settling into something of a period of stability. In any case, check out the entire post – it’s well worth a read.

For me? How does my 2014 look? I’ll have more predictions and news on Monday. And of course, I’ll keep you posted throughout the year.