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I’VE WRITTEN LIGHTHEARTEDLY about cons, including Guiseppe Balsamo aka Cagliostro, whose 18th-century antics inspired the modern opera The Ghosts of Versailles.. There are, though, modern cons with horrible outcomes. Here, in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are tidbits about Internet gaming gone corrupt and an online name proving deadly.
Virtual Farm Investments. Paul Benjamin Osterlund describes in Rĕst ŏf Wỗrld, July 20, 2021, “Fraud on the Farm: How a Baby-faced CEO Turned a Farmville clone into a Massive Ponzi Scheme.”
Farmville, as its name suggests, is a popular gaming simulation of raising virtual crops and farm animals for fun. But Turkish conman Mehmet Aydin figured out a way to turn a real profit from a similar virtual venue.
Osterlund notes, “Launched in 2016, Aydin’s Farm Bank was billed as a way for players to ‘win as they play, and have fun as they win.’ It encouraged them to invest in what they thought were actual livestock and agricultural land…. In actuality, though, Farm Bank was a smartphone-based Ponzi scheme.
Broadening the Con. The con expanded into launching real-life farms, sort of. Osterlund says, “A local religious leader, a district governor, and a local mayor attended one farm’s opening ceremony in 2017. The fanfare surrounding these grand openings were little more than PR stunts—the few animals on display weren’t actually being raised with Farm Bank investors’ money—but it all spoke to just how influential the game had become.”
Things got downright complicated: In 2017, Aydin set up deli franchises across Turkey, at around $30,000 a pop. Osterlund notes that these shops “sold sausage, cheese, butter, honey, and other goods emblazoned with the Farm Bank logo—suggesting that the produce had come from the company’s livestock. It did not.”
An Inevitable Collapse. In March, 2018, Farm Bank collapsed. Aydin fled to South America with more than $80.5 million of investor money. Part of the lolly bought him a Ferrari.
Alas, and tragically, back in Turkey at least one suicide was traceable to a Farm Bank investment. Twenty-five-year-old Recep Ataș shot himself after facing a large bank loan that had evaporated in his Farm Bank investment.
Aydin surfaced briefly in Uruguay, with a recording saying, “Rather than be imprisoned in Turkey, I am going to continue my work in Uruguay, and I will work until the end in order to return people what they are owed.”
Interpol begged to differ.
Tomorrow in Part 2, a man’s enthusiasm for his home state encourages another’s malfeasance. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021