In the summer of 2007, I was confronted with a situation which never had happened to me before and what I always thought was not even possible to occur. The phrase, “Do not mix friends and family with money,” became unfortunately clear. Steven seemed to me, at least, a good person and eventually we became friends. One day Steven started to describe to me a particular project that he was working on; it was in the making for a couple of years, and he said that in a couple of months it would become the next big thing. The idea of becoming very rich in a short amount of time really grabbed me, and even more so because I was in a situation where extra cash would have been a relief. I naively agreed to be part of it as an investor.
All the paper work seemed in order, at least from what I could tell. He showed me the entire long list of clients, all of those like myself who had made the right decision to jump on board on the next big venture. Some of them had invested seventy, even hundreds of times, more than me. I remember that I was so excited to be part of something, and nevertheless in making money by doing absolutely nothing. I was being so naïve about it, since it didn’t occur to me that I needed to do more extensive research. His word meant trust to me.
A few days later we met again and he delivered a stack of paper to me, which he said represented the company business plan and described what I was investing in. Verbally, he added that the company will be “public” and as soon as that happened, I would receive my stock–my five thousand dollars’ initial investment and a return of fifty thousand dollars. I started to be concerned a bit when I discovered that the check was deposited the same day in a bank out of state, but again as my excitement and trust were running high, I was focusing on what I would do with all of that new money. In those long months ahead, Steven once in a while sent me emails that the deal is happening and soon the company will be public. Eight months passed by and after have not hearing from Steven nor receiving any response to my texts and messages, I started to get very worried and look for advise elsewhere–including researching through law books of alternative roads to take to suspend this collaboration that I got myself into. Eventually after numerous voice mail messages, calls, and email, I was able to talk to him in a restaurant after I stalked his moves on Facebook.
Steven did not hesitate to cover the truth, and said that the company had some issues and never went public; all the while assuring me that the money will be returned to his investors. Immediately I asked him when will I be able to get my money back, insisting on a date. Steven never gave me a date and, of course, never gave back my money either. I then took the action into my own hands and I started to look for advisors and learn my own knowledge. I filed a case at the “Small court case” in New York, filing a complaint against him. After two weeks Steven called me, infuriated regarding the letter that he received which asking to present himself in front of the judge and explain his misrepresentation and adverse activity he used to take my money. The whole tone of the phone conversation between us got loud and angry on his part. What struck me the most was his consistent attempt to try to make me feel the consequences if I went forward with this case.
The date of the hearing he never showed up, and after another letter–this time from the court– he called and asked me to meet him. I was looking to face him for so long. I wanted my money back. A part of me still wanted to believe that Steven had only lost his integrity for a moment, but now he wanted to meet with me to settle out of court and give back what he owed me. The other part of me would not allow me to have taken another chance at being cheated, and so I prepared a written contract for the meeting; the contract which he was supposed to sign stated that he admits taking money from me, and on the due date he would return it in full. With that contract, I also had called a notary who stamped the contract that we both had signed. But again, months passed by and nothing–no money and Steven could not be found. I was firmly resolved to find him, and I hired a private detective who released the greatest news that I could receive. Steven had been arrested and he was now in a prison in the Catskills after being found guilty of corruption. More than 200 people filed charges, some of whom were seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars. That was the day that I finally turned a page in this stressful chapter of my life. Even though the feeling of being cheated was still in my bones, the idea that he would have to spend three winters in a jail was more satisfying.