Truly, this story is somewhat absurd and a bit funny; except for the fact that it's hard to laugh at this tale because many unsophisticated folks, who could ill afford to lose money, were victimized. All of which poses the same challenge to me: balancing the idiocy against the human tragedy. However, if I don't call attention to these financial scams, it only furthers the ends of those seeking to operate in the shadows.
Beginning in 1999, Emil Scheringer held himself out as an owner and officer of three companies,
- Adlex Bent,
- Annuit Coeptis, and
- Supreme Oil and Energy Company.
Scheringer claimed that he and his companies owned oil contracts in Nigeria and other countries worth hundreds of millions or billions of dollars. Typically, Scheringer stated that he had purchased the contracts for pennies on the dollar - or that had been given to him by the Nigerian government.
SIDE BAR: So, think about that. A stranger tells you about contracts worth billions of dollars. He then tells you that he bought those contracts for pennies on the dollar; or, even more fantabulously, some wonderful benefactor just tossed him the contracts for free. And this holder of billions in oil contracts, this lucky soul upon whom the gods have bestowed such riches, this stranger is in need of a few thousand of your dollars in order to convert his contracts into the wealth of Croesus. And you're thinking of dipping into your life savings based upon such a pitch? Are you crazy?
What Scheringer is pushing is yet another variation on an unending number of what are now popularly known as "Nigerian" scams. In keeping with the pitch so often used with these scams, Scheringer bemoaned to all who would listen that his access to the proceeds of these contracts was blocked. His tale of woe claimed that there were hurdles in the United States and overseas that required the payment of a relatively small sum to overcome.
Sure. Yeah, right.
While many of us are now wise to this con, unfortunately, many others are not. Apparently Scheringer worked his magic on hundreds of victims, who gave him anywhere between a few hundred to millions of dollars to overcome the impediments to unblocking his access to the great wealth derived from his Nigeria contracts. Time after time, he swore that in just a few days his investors would double or triple their money. Of course, this scam must have been bringing in the dough because in addition to his own sweet talk, Scheringer operated a network of paid recruiters all over the United States that helped him entice new victims.
Next, enter Delmer C. Gowing III, a lawyer who specialized in securities litigation, and who had represented Scheringer in a lawsuit brought by a defrauded victim. In 2004, Squire Gowing apparently heard the siren's song of easy Nigerian scam money and went over to the Dark Side and joined Team Scheringer. At that point, Gowing posed as the General Counsel and President of Supreme Oil, and targeted his own law clients, among other victims. One can only imagine how effective this respected securities lawyer was when he started to fleece his targets.
Jailhouse Phone Call(s)
In 2005 and 2005 respectively, Scheringer and Gowing were arrested and released on bail. Undeterred, the two continued to defraud victims. Brazenly, if confronted about the pending criminal charges, the two pooh poohed the cases and claimed them to be unrelated to their oil contract business. More incredibly, even after he was incarcerated several months prior to the start of his 2009 criminal trial, Scheringer conspired with Gowing to keep the con going - and this despite the fact that Scheringer was in prison and his phone calls were recorded.
Thankfully, all good - and bad - things must end. Following a three-week jury trial in federal court in Manhattan, New York, Defendants Emil Scheringer, then 57, of Deerfield Beach, FL, and Delmer C. Gowing III, then 66, of Boynton Beach FL, were each found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and faced an additional penalty at sentencing because the jury found that they continued to participate in the conspiracy after their initial arrests and release on bail. Additinally, Scheringer was also found guilty of nine counts of wire fraud, and one count of failure to appear.
Gowing faced a maximum potential sentence on the conspiracy charge of 30 years in prison and a maximum fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the gross pecuniary gain or loss from the offense.
By Order dated January 21, 2010, the State of Florida disbarred Gowing for at least five years. He was also ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution to a client. On April 20,2010, the federal court in Florida suspended his law license.
Scheringer faced a maximum potential sentence on all of the charges of 220 years in prison, as well as a maximum fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the gross pecuniary gain or loss from the offense, on each of the eleven counts of conviction.
Both defendants also faced forfeiture of up to $10 million.
On October 6, 2010, Gowing was sentenced to 22 years in prison. He was found responsible for $9 million in losses ordered to forfeit $8,910,227, pay additional restitution, and to serve 3 years of supervised release following his prison sentence.
On February 17, 2011, Emil Scheringer was sentenced in Manhattan federal court to 40 years in prison for his participation in a fraudulent advance-fee scheme that spanned over a decade and robbed victims of more than $23 million. Scheringer was ordered to forfeit $23,945,790, pay additional restitution, and ordered to serve 3 years of supervised release following his prison sentence.