Sunday, May 29, 2022

SB NEWS-PRESS: THE INVESTIGATOR: THE MING STING










Coming up 20 years ago (June 16, 2002), Prince Albert II of Monaco designated me his intelligence adviser, a role that would evolve during a five-year period into my establishing the Monaco Intelligence Service, which I customized and directed for Albert as he transitioned from Hereditary Prince to ruling monarch.

Albert wanted his spymaster to be as invisible as possible. Thus, operating out of offices on Marylebone High Street in London (and Caffe Caldesi around the corner) my deputy and I carefully honed our first targets, which included the curious case of a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who introduced New Russians to Monaco in 1992.

We codenamed him MING.

It was Albert’s mother, the former Hollywood starlet Grace Kelly who, as Princess Grace, began the tradition of entertaining U.S. servicemen who passed through the principality or were based nearby. 


MING was one such invitee, seconded in 1971 by the U.S. Air Force Academy to the French Ecole de l’Air in Marseille, and eventually invited to a Palace function.  MING took a liking to Monaco, and when he retired from military service two decades later, he found his way back as coordinator of a Russian trade delegation that in 1992 arrived in Monaco for the specific purpose of opening business ties. 


Most interesting: An obscure Russian politician from St. Petersburg named Vladimir Putin was part of that delegation, whose visit marked the entry of New Russians into the postage-stamp-sized principality.


Soon after the delegation departed, MING went into business with Victor Pastor, a member of one of Monaco’s most prominent families, best known as “The Prince’s Builder” due to their long-time construction monopoly. Together, MING and Victor created an entity called Pastor International, whose function (we discovered through the spy network I assembled in Washington DC) was to launder—through Monaco—Russian criminal money derived from illegal arms deals.


Through our Dataveillant (a computer intelligence specialist) we identified MING’s address.  In fact, we discovered several residences:  in Monaco, London, Austin, and Malibu—property wholly owned by MING and his German girlfriend, conservatively valued at $10 million. 


Yet MING retired from the U.S. Air Force earning $60,000 per year.


As my own specialty was deep-cover penetration (stings), I endeavored to insert myself into MING’s existence with a view toward learning from him directly how he managed to enrich himself.  Providing logistical support, my deputy quickly uncovered MING’s telephone numbers and pinpointed his precise whereabouts in September 2002:  Malibu.


Thus, utilizing pretext as a business consultant with mutual contacts in Monaco, I cold-called MING and invited him to meet me for drinks in Montecito, where I was vacationing.  Next day, we faced one another by the fireplace inside the Biltmore’s lounge bar. 


To get somebody talking, it is important to establish common bonds and not address the target subject.  Walt Perry, a sting-undercover specialist for the IRS, taught me: “Your target must look at you and think 1) this guy is genuine, 2) I trust this guy, and 3) I like this guy.  You cannot establish rapport by asking questions, but by listening.  The target will eventually get round to telling you what you want to know.”


Almost immediately, I discovered MING and I had a common bond (always important in Sting U).  We had both known Carroll Quigley, a legendary professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.  MING had attended Georgetown U and taken his Western Civilization course. I got to know Dr. Quigley in the mid 1970s while a student at nearby American University; he took me under his wing for an education on the shadow power elite.


Over martinis, MING (who drank three) suggested he and I collaborate on a book about Professor Quigley, who transcended this earthly plane in 1977.  (“I thought he was God,” said MING.)  He invited me to visit his Malibu beach house to discuss this further. When we adjourned, MING insisted on giving me a bear hug and proclaimed our meeting a “serendipitous event, designed by the stars.”  I sensed he was lonely.  And now—as my mentor, CIA legend Clair George, would say—he had become my “new best friend.”


 

            MALIBU


 

Two days later, I arrived at MING’s house on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the Point Dume section of Malibu:  A compound with main house and guesthouse, sealed from the road by high walls and security-coded gate.


MING proudly boasted of being one of the first persons to introduce New Russians to Monaco.  He told me he had served as an officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and had been seconded to the White House as a Soviet Specialist when Ronald Reagan was president.  In the late 1980s, said MING, he was transferred to Germany and engaged in “the supervision of high-tech, super-secret reconnaissance of the Soviet Union.”  He added that he knew President Putin personally.


We already knew that MING was posted to a USAF base in Ramstein, West Germany during the timeframe (1986-90) Mr. Putin operated 200 miles away in Dresden, East Germany as a KGB officer whose job it was to identify and recruit spies who possessed top secret intelligence.


MING told me he “retired broke.”  He told me that Pastor International was sold prior to Russia’s financial collapse in 1998, and that the sale enabled him to earn a small fortune—explaining, perhaps, how his $4 million dollar house came to be furnished with extremely valuable Ming Dynasty antiques (hence our codename for him).


This was a lie.  


We already knew from documents filed with Monaco’s economic registry that Pastor International was not “sold” prior to 1998 but liquidated (without profit) in June 2001.


I observed MING to be a shy, timid man, seemingly devoid of the business drive or acumen necessary to make millions of dollars.  He now aspired to writing screenplays.  MING told me he liked to keep a low profile and I inferred a guilt complex when he said he could not watch the movie Saving Private Ryan all the way through because it “makes me too weepy.”


Upon my return to London, we intensified our investigation of MING, turning up details of his full military service record.  MING’s Monaco apartment, we discovered, had been purchased in 1997 for 26,500,000 French francs ($4.5 million) in cash.


Soon after, my deputy and I briefed Prince Albert on MING, among other topics.  After presenting the facts, I peppered my own hypothesis with these questions:


Who paid for the MING-organized Russian trade delegation conference in Monaco in

1992?  Not MING, who supposedly “retired broke.”  The Russians paid.  


Why would the Russians subsidize MING or even trust him-–he, an admitted former DIA officer and Reagan White House Soviet Specialist?  And how did the Russians even KNOW him?


Was it possible that at some stage of his military intelligence career—say, in Germany—the KGB recruited MING?  By creating business opportunities for MING in Monaco, were the Russians helping him “legitimize” possible earnings from espionage?  Also, would the Russians view his contacts in the principality as a conduit for transforming Monaco into their own money laundering and espionage hub, as we already knew to be their intention?  


Was it possible Vladimir Putin personally recruited MING?


Fascinated, the prince authorized me to further ingratiate myself into MING’s existence with two possible objectives:  1) Turn MING and entice him to reveal his Russian money laundering contacts; 2) Furnish our dossier to the FBI.


 

            LONDON



Two weeks later, in London, MING invited me to his Kensington home followed by dinner at Julie’s, a nearby restaurant he favored.  This home, like the one in Malibu, was large and plush and furnished with pricey oriental antiques, including some, he said, he had “purchased last week in Napa,” dating from the Ming Dynasty.


On this occasion, MING told me he had served in Borfink, Germany in the mid-to-late 1980s, supervising super-secret U-2 and SR-71 reconnaissance flights over the Soviet Union; that he had traveled with the Reagan White House to Iceland and Malta for summits with the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev. 


His adult daughter joined us, at one point referring to MING as “my dad, the double-agent.”  An awkward silence ensued.  


MING and his girlfriend had big plans the month ahead:  Paris (the five-star Hotel Meurice) and Gleneagles (the ultra-luxurious resort in Scotland).  When I off-handedly mentioned Felix Bloch, the alleged State Department traitor, MING could not look me in the eye.  He paid for dinner with his exclusive blackAmerican Express card.


Upon his return from his extravagant travels, MING met me again in London, 

this time in the Library Bar of the Lanesborough Hotel, joined by my deputy, who I introduced as a business associate.  Over Plymouth Gin martinis, MING told us he had just arrived from Oslo, where he’d enjoyed a “one-on-one” dinner with President Putin at the Russian Embassy.  MING told me he and Mr. Putin drank two bottles of vodka between them and “ate the best caviar I’ve ever had.”  Said MING: “I have known Putin for ten years—I knew him when he was a nobody.” 


I asked MING if he had conveyed his unique relationship with the President of Russia to someone in the U.S. government, given his background.  He shook his head.  “Maybe you could open a backchannel?” I suggested.  MING changed the subject and said he planned to spend Thanksgiving weekend in St. Petersburg and Moscow, where he would again meet with Mr. Putin. He then added this very alarming (to my ears) addendum to his itinerary: In mid-December he planned to visit Washington DC for a meeting of the U.S. President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB).


Soon thereafter, in Monaco, we brought Prince Albert up to scratch on where we were with MING.  By then we had reason to believe that notorious personalities in the Russian

criminal underworld had, between 1996 and 2001, laundered $800 million through MING’s Monaco company, Pastor International.  Much of this these funds—generated by illegal arms sales—had been invested in real estate in France, Spain, and Switzerland, with significant amounts plunged into hotels throughout Europe and Asia.


 

VIKTOR BOUT



A key figure in such dealings was a Russian named Viktor Bout a.k.a. “The Bill Gates of Arms Dealing.” Through his private airline Air Cess (we called it “Air Cesspool”), Bout supplied the Taliban in Afghanistan with an air fleet comprised of five Soviet-made Antonov 12s.  Pastor International in Monaco allegedly laundered the funds paid to Mr. Bout by the Taliban.


In February 2001, a federal prosecutor in Belgium, under pressure from the US government, had issued an arrest warrant alleging Mr. Bout’s money laundering from illegal arms deals.  In addition, the Russian SVR learned from one of its spies that the French DST (domestic intelligence) was investigating MING for money laundering violations on behalf of Russian clients.  


Consequently, MING and Victor Pastor dissolved Pastor International and destroyed the company’s documentation.  MING went into hibernation as a wannabe screenwriter in California and Victor Pastor, perhaps from stress, died in 2002 at age 65 from a MRSA blood infection while undergoing cancer treatment at Princess Grace Hospital in Monaco.


Because of MING’s self-proclaimed connection to the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, I proposed to Prince Albert—and he concurred—that I convey our intelligence to the FBI.


 

MONTECITO



I spent the Christmas holidays in southern California and took the opportunity to meet again with MING.  He brought his girlfriend and elderly mother to Montecito, and we dined at a table adjacent to comedienne Carol Burnett in Lucky’s.


MING confided more details about himself, allowing me to assemble additional pieces of the puzzle in advance of meeting with FBI officials. My daughter (then aged nine), sitting opposite MING, drew a face with horns under which she wrote “The Devil.”  MING insisted on viewing his “portrait.”  I was embarrassed when she turned her drawing around.  MING studied it, and said quietly, “Yes, that’s me.”


On February 25th (2003), at FBI headquarters in Washington DC, I briefed Dave Szady, Assistant Director, Counterintelligence, and his deputy, Tim Bereznay, on MING. As a result, an investigation was opened at the FBI’s LA field office, which held jurisdiction due to MING’s residence in Malibu.


 

CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT

 


Knowing how the FBI operates (slowly) from a decade of undercover counterintelligence, I decided to involve congressional oversight. Thus, when U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss (a ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) visited Monaco in August, I briefed him on MING and arranged for him to tour Monaco’s Palace and meet Prince Albert. 


Back in London soon after, I met with my MI6 liaison contact.  The FBI, he told me, had contacted them through the Bureau’s London embassy legat and asked for permission to speak with me (I was on British soil, standard procedure) with reference to MING.


“They’re out of their minds,” I told him.  “I handed it to them on a silver platter.  Five months on, nothing.  I may have to deal with MING myself.  Don’t worry,” I added, “I won’t kill him.”


“Good,” he replied dryly.  “It would tend to raise your profile.”


The FBI apparently discovered that MING had made a series of wire transfers to his bank in the United States, each transfer just under $10,000, the threshold at which banks (at that time) were compelled to report a wire transfer to government monitors—an obvious attempt at evading notice.  MING had also been observed collecting large amounts of cash in Switzerland and delivering it to Monaco, in violation of French Customs statutes.  “It is clear that MING is engaged in criminal wrong-doing,” was the quote played back to me by MI6,


Next, dinner with MING at Orient Fusion in London’s West End.  Full of himself in his low-key way, he said, “I’m departing tomorrow for the Middle East,” implying he would undertake a super-secret mission for the U.S. government.  “Back Sunday, out again Tuesday, back to the Middle East.”


“A mystery trip?” asked his daughter. “Baghdad?”


“No,” said MING grinning smarmily.  “Close.” He then made another reference to PFIAB, hinting that the President’s intelligence advisory board charged him to undertake such secret missions—a ludicrous notion as PFIAB was not chartered for operational activity.


MING also mentioned that he’d just purchased a ski lodge in Whistler, Canada.


Next day I telephoned the FBI Special Agent in charge of overseeing the LA field office investigation and briefed him on my dinner with MING.


“You’re way ahead of us,” he said.

 

Honestly, it did not take much to be way ahead of the FBI.  

 

A week later, the DC Special Agent-in-Charge phoned me back.  “To avoid headquarters interference, I can’t deal directly with you,” he said.  “You have to deal with the LA field office.”


Typical feebie protocol.


One week after that I sat with Special Agents Teniko and William in a suite at the Montecito Inn.  There was, said Teniko, tremendous interest in MING.  Would I be willing to cultivate him further on their behalf to develop a money laundering case?  I replied that I would further cultivate MING, not on their behalf, but in my role as the prince’s spymaster and, in the spirit of liaison partnership, share our findings with the Bureau.


 

            PFIAB


 

Next, I flew to Washington and updated Senator Chambliss, a close confidant of President George W. Bush. The Senator had become seriously concerned about MING’s purported connection to PFIAB.  


A month later, MING phoned me from LAX and said, “I’m flying to Washington for a PFIAB meeting.”


“You’re a member?” I asked him.


“Yes,” he replied.  “I’ll be at the Hay-Adams [a five-star hotel overlooking the White House].”


It wasn’t difficult for me to determine that MING did NOT sit on the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, even though member names were supposed to be shielded from public view.  It was even easier to identify all staff members on PFIAB.  MING was neither on the board nor a staff member.  Which, for the second time, made him a liar.


Yet PFIAB would indeed convene its annual meeting on December 17th and 18th—and, we discovered, MING was truly booked into the Hay-Adams.


So, what was going on?


My theory:  From his days in the military, MING probably knew a current PFIAB board member or staffer.  He would wine and dine this individual and glean all that he could about whatever PFIAB discussed.  If MING was spying for the Russians, PFIAB was his target.


I tried my best to awaken the FBI, but they remained in deep slumber—and MING pulled off his gig without a hitch.


Soon after, FBI Special Agent Teniko in LA telephoned me in an excited state to 

announce that she’d found a document connecting MING to Pastor International. 


Hmm. This was 14 months after I had provided the Bureau with our dossier.  If they would have asked me then, I could have provided them with an officially stamped document from Monaco’s economic registry linking the two.  Or they could have consulted the internet (at that time).  


“Good work,” I replied.  


Not long after, Prince Albert and I were hosted by a distinguished group of Washingtonians in the private dining room of Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. 


Senator Saxby Chambliss ordered steak, creamed spinach, and au gratin potatoes all round.  


Porter Goss, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and soon to become CIA director, told us that The New York Times was providing better intelligence than CIA.  “And I’m giving [Robert] Mueller two more years to get counterterrorism right at the FBI,” he added.


I felt like saying “good f------ luck.”


Near dinner’s end, Mr. Goss asked if there was anything he could do for us.  I’d stayed quiet through most of the dinner in deference to the prince and our esteemed hosts.  But when Porter Goss asked this question, I quickly stepped in. “Can you put pressure on the FBI to get moving on the MING case?”   


Porter replied, “Consider it done.”  (Later, at a congressional hearing, true to his word, Mr. Goss handed a note to the FBI’s Tim Bereznay asking about MING, which, knowing how DC operates, would have the effect of sending a shockwave up Mr. Bereznay’s spine.)


 

            RICHARD CHICHAKLI 


 

While in Washington, I phoned a new FBI special agent in Los Angeles who’d been tasked with MING.  No further developments, he said, which meant they’d done nothing more in two months.  So, I made a courtesy call on the Special Agent-in-Charge and he requested that I re-engage MING by e-mail (despite having earlier said I could take instructions only from LA).


“Anything new for us?” he asked.

 

In fact, I did have something new—and, because it dealt with a U.S. citizen, I conveyed it to him on Prince Albert’s behalf: Our investigation of MING, which had led to Russian arms dealer Victor Bout, then led to one Richard Chichakli, Mr. Bout’s American representative, who was based in Texas.  As I result, I’d engineered a sting in which my operative engaged Mr. Chichakli on the basis that maybe his boss, Mr. Bout, wanted to write a book.  Mr. Bout did not want to write a book. But what came out of their meeting in Richardson, Texas was enough to excite the FBI—and soon thereafter they were hot on Mr. Chichakli’s trail.  


(Mr. Chichakli later fled the United States, eventually returned, was tried and sentenced to prison for, among other things, money laundering and wire fraud conspiracy. Viktor Bout was extradited from Thailand, sentenced to 25 years in prison for peddling arms to terrorist groups—and currently resides at the high-security U.S. Penitentiary, Marion.)

 

 

SPOOKED

 


A whole year had passed; it was time for another PFIAB meeting in Washington DC and MING flew there. I emailed notice of this to a Special Agent at the FBI’s LA field office.  Two days later, to be certain my message had gotten through to headquarters, I phoned the FBI Special Agent-in-Charge. No, he had not heard a thing from LA.  


So, again, MING pulled off his gig without a hitch.    


When next I met with FBI agents, they informed me that MING recently visited Sharm El-Sheikh, a shiek Egyptian resort on the Sinai peninsular.  They also confirmed that MING once possessed a credit card in the name of Pastor International.  They also discovered that his Ming Dynasty antiques cost between $100,000 and $150,000 per piece and were usually purchased from a shop inside the Ritz Carlton Hotel in San Francisco.  


Furthermore, I was informed, President Bush had decided to disband PFIAB, effective immediately.


Six PFIAB members had stayed at the Hay-Adams, where MING had a room in December 2003; special agents were now checking to see which of them overlapped with MING at the Willard Hotel in November 2004.  It was gratifying to see the FBI tightly focused on MING’s case—even though 22 months had elapsed since I’d brought him to their attention.


In January 2005, MING initiated (from out of blue) an extraordinary email exchange with me:


MING: “I have pretty much dropped out of everything for the moment.  [There is] no interest in the suggestions of an old military guy like me now.  After twenty-three years in the military that’s enough.”


I wrote back: “Now wait a second, old soldiers are not really supposed to fade away…”


To which he replied: “I KNOW.  BUT THIS ONE IS DONE.”


To which I replied: “Either your caps key is stuck or you really mean it.”


MING responded: “I REALLY MEAN IT.”


Two possibilities:  Either MING had figured out I was playing him and wanted to hold up a white flag—I’m done, leave me alone.  Or he assumed his email was being monitored—and he wanted those monitoring him to know he was done.


My memo to the FBI: MING continues to travel almost non-stop.  On the heels of scuba diving in the Maldives in early autumn, he took an unexplained trip deep inside Russia followed by a visit to Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, late autumn then spent Christmas in the British Virgin Isles.  He arrived in Malibu in early January and pretends, in email to me, to be there still, though he is currently in Whistler, Canada.” 


In return, the FBI told me about their latest stance on MING:  They intended to transfer his case to the IRS because they’d requested information on MING and Pastor International from Monaco through official channels and “it never came.”


“Yes,” I said.  “That is precisely why Prince Albert asked me create an UNOFFICIAL intelligence service—to cut through that kind of official red tape.”


MING, they told me, had been keeping a low profile in Malibu and seemed very spooked.


Back in Washington, soon after, I lunched at CafĂ© Milano with Tyler Drumheller, CIA European division chief, with whom I had been dealing as Prince Albert’s spymaster.  Mr. Drumheller told me he had shown our MING dossier to Mike Sulick, the new Associate Director of Operations and who, said Mr. Drumheller, “is a great resource on Russia.”  


Mr. Sulick, he told me, assessed that the Russians had indeed recruited MING.  


What happened next?


I do not know other than MING disappeared from my radar screen.  


(Sometimes, in the intel biz, it is better not to know…)




Sunday, May 22, 2022

SB NEWS-PRESS: THE INVESTIGATOR: MONTECITO MORTGAGE MOGUL MYSTERY

 



https://newspress.com/montecito-mortgage-mogul-mystery/








Montecito’s Ben Alexander-Owens Anderson, 40, offers courses and coaching on “How to Become a Successful Loan Originator” and heavily promotes himself as a public figure “mortgage mogul.”


What is not apparent on Mr. Anderson’s website (which was active until this investigation began) or any of his social media channels, is that in March 2019 the State of California’s Department of Business Oversight revoked his Mortgage Loan Originator (MLO) license. 


During that same year, Mr. Anderson’s license to initiate mortgages was also revoked in three other states—Washington, Illinois, and Ohio—for “not meeting the standards required” to be licensed as an MLO.


This is largely because, three years earlier, in March 2016, a jury held Mr. Anderson liable for fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, misappropriation of confidential information and five other causes of action.


After a seven-week trial the jury in that case concluded that Mr. Anderson had defrauded his employer, Mount Olympus Mortgage, of Irvine, California—and awarded the plaintiff damages against Mr. Anderson in the amounts of $5,607,000 in lost profits and $215,654 in punitive damages.

 

 

CONFIDENTIAL CLIENT DATA MISAPPROPRIATED 


 


The Chicago Tribune reported that Mr. Anderson had downloaded and transferred to another mortgage company, Chicago-based Guaranteed Rate, “more than 200 active loan files and personal financial data on 900 borrowers before switching firms,” even though he had signed a confidentiality agreement upon joining Mount Olympus that precluded such treachery and enabled Guaranteed Rate to engage in unfair competition.


Said Chad Hummel, an LA-based partner with Sidley Austin who represented the aggrieved mortgage company: “It was quite an elaborate scheme. He [Mr. Anderson] transferred all of the data without our client’s consent.”


Or, as the Commissioner of Business Oversight put it: “Beginning as early as April 2014, Anderson began making arrangements to move from Mount Olympus to a different employer, Guaranteed Rate. In exchange, for compensation by Guaranteed, Anderson surreptitiously and without Mount Olympus’s knowledge or consent, arranged to transfer Mount Olympus’s confidential and proprietary information to Guaranteed before leaving Mount Olympus. Between March and June 2014, Anderson initiated and abetted the transfer of Mount Olympus borrowers’ tax returns and bank account statements to Guaranteed, in violation of Mount Olympus’s written policies, which Anderson had signed and agreed to abide by.”


Mr. Anderson is reported to have joined Guaranteed Rate immediately after being fired in June 2014 by Mount Olympus, his original sponsor for an MLO license.


(Mount Olympus also sued Guaranteed Rate over Mr. Anderson’s egregious behavior and won a judgment for $13 million in punitive damages, $5.6 million in lost profits and $4.6 million in lost business value.)


In addition to citing this case as cause for revoking Mr. Anderson’s license, the California Department of Business Oversight also chastised Mr. Anderson for “failure to promptly disclose the fact that he had been named in a lawsuit whereby an injunction was sought against him from engaging in certain financial services related activity.”


The department further castigated Mr. Anderson for failing to disclose liens taken against him, as required by their regulations. 


Revoking Mr. Anderson’s license, Administrative Judge Matthew Goldsby wrote that he “misrepresented that he had no unsatisfied liens when in fact two prior tax liens were recorded and not paid” and that “cause exists to discipline respondent’s license number… because he failed to meet the statutory requirements and withheld information or made material misstatements in his application for a license and license renewals.” 


Mr. Anderson’s website billed him as “a best-selling author” of a book titled Homeowner Now. However, this is a 73-page self-published book that, as far as we can see, has not appeared on any best-seller lists.  


 

RELOCATION


 

Mark Leyes of the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation told The Investigator: “Mr. Anderson is not currently licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation to act as a mortgage loan originator in California. He may NOT act as an MLO unless and until he applies for and is approved for a license. Both the California Financing Law and California Residential Mortgage Lending Act regulate the conduct of MLOs in California and provide for criminal liability based on willful violations of any provision of those laws, including engaging in unlicensed MLO activity.”


Soon after his MLO license was revoked, Mr. Anderson, who apparently attended Biola (a Christian college in La Mirada founded as a Bible institute), relocated his residence from Orange County to Montecito—perhaps, in our opinion, to make a fresh start. 


However, reports reaching us allege that this ex-mortgage originator may be endeavoring to broker mortgages even though he no longer possesses the proper licensing to do so.


A person familiar with the company Ben Anderson 365 told The Investigator that, through 2020 (after he had lost his license), Mr. Anderson “coached a team of loan initiators, and originated loans personally as well, for a company called PRMG.” 


(Paramount Residential Mortgage Group is based in Corona, California. We reached out to PRMG for comment, but no one in the company responded.)

 

And in a post on his Instagram account dated February 10th of this year, under the heading “Happy Client” Mr. Anderson quoted Frank@amdur.us: “Out of my 27 home purchases and my refinancing with you…” and “I was pleased to refer you to another family member who is looking for a new home.” It is unclear when or where Mr. Anderson refinanced a home for Frank@amdur.us


But if it was in California since March 2019, it would be in violation of California Financial Code 50500, as cited by Mr. Leyes: “Any person who willfully violates any provision of this division, or any rule or order under this division, shall, upon conviction be subject to a fine of not more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000) or imprisonment in the state prison or in a county jail for not more than one year, or to both that fine and imprisonment.”


We reached out to Mr. Anderson to confirm or deny if he has handled mortgages since his license was revoked.


Mr. Anderson responded, “I can tell you that I am abiding by the order.”



IDAHO?




In December 2020, soon after moving to Montecito, Mr. Anderson applied for an MLO license In Idaho.


“Consistent with normal practice,” wrote Patricia Perkins, Director of Idaho’s Department of Finance, “a Department examiner conducted an assessment of the applicant using various sources of information to determine if the Applicant demonstrates sufficient financial responsibility, character, and general fitness in order to be licensed as a mortgage loan initiator.”


Mr. Anderson’s request for a license in Idaho was denied.  


“The Applicant,” reads that Order, “does not have the character and fitness sufficient to warrant belief that he will operate honestly and fairly.”


In any case, an MLO license in Idaho or any other state would not allow Mr. Anderson to initiate mortgages within the state of California.


Mark Leyes told The Investigator: A person with an MLO license from another state may assist a California-based borrower on a mortgage on property inside the state where he is licensed but not inside California.



PPP LOANS


 

As with Alice in Wonderland, Mr. Anderson’s business practices, in our opinion, get curiouser and curiouser—and potentially more seriouser and seriouser, if true, given the penalties involved.


In April 2020, a year after Mr. Anderson’s MLO license was revoked, the Ben Anderson 365 Corporation, registered at 9920 Research Drive in Irvine, received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan (which turned out to be free money) from the Small Business Administration in the amount of $102,436 after it applied to the program on behalf of 11 employees who, the corporation claimed, were in need of funding to keep their jobs during the COVID-19 lockdown.  


When we checked, we found the toll-free number that links to Ben Anderson 365 Corporation in Irvine is disconnected.


In January 2021, Ben Anderson 365 Corporation applied for and received a SECOND PPP loan, this time in the amount of $97,700, purportedly on behalf of six employees whose jobs the company linked to an address on East Valley Road in Montecito. This is a residential address (presumably where Mr. Anderson resided at the time) and not zoned commercial.


Problem: A former Ben Anderson 365 contractor told The Investigator that by January 2021 all of Mr. Anderson’s employees had either left or were fired, aside from Ben’s sister-in-law.


PPP loan fraud is a federal crime and violations can lead to a one million dollar fine and 30 years imprisonment.


At his State of Union address, President Biden announced that “the Justice Department will name a chief prosecutor for pandemic fraud.”

 

Last month, Raymond Magana of LA County was sentenced to 41 months in prison and ordered to pay $360,415 in restitution for committing PPP fraud, which has been described as the largest fraud in U.S, history.  


If you suspect PPP fraud, access pandemicoversight.gov and file a complaint electronically.


Now back to Mr. Anderson: If he truly employed a staff of six in January 2021 (contrary to what we have been told), and they were beneficiaries of PPP loans, what are their names and what are the amounts of funds that were allocated to them?


The Investigator reached out to Mr. Anderson to confirm or deny if he had only one employee when he applied for and received PPP funds for six employees in January 2021.


Mr. Anderson replied: “I can confirm that I had more than 1 employee in January of 2021.” 


The Investigator followed up: “As mentioned earlier, we have a source who claims you had only one employee, your sister-in- law, in January 2021. This is important because in January 2021 you applied for and received a (second) PPP loan in the amount of $97,700. To fully resolve what I’ve been hearing from our source, I would be grateful if you would provide the identities of the six employees who were allocated PPP funds from that January 2021 PPP loan.”


Mr. Anderson replied: “Confidentiality and in good business practice I can’t disclose the identity of my employees, I’m sure you can appreciate that. But I can tell you I had several employees in January 2021.”


We followed up: “While we understand your stance regarding confidentiality, we think the suggestion of PPP fraud is serious enough to outweigh any such concern. We can assure you that, if divulged, we would not publish the names of your employees, but only ensure that they exist and that they received PPP funds. Obviously, failing to provide such information creates enough doubt to justify raising the allegation based on what we’ve learned. So, we ask you, please, to reconsider and identify the six employees who received PPP loan payments in January 2021.”


Mr. Anderson did not respond.



            TY WARNER UPDATE

 


Tis almost mid-year and there is nothing going on at the Biltmore Hotel tin Montecito to suggest reopening is anywhere near. 


On the contrary, we have learned from an authoritative source that Ty Warner is quietly trying to find a buyer for his Channel Drive resort, putting out feelers among the mega-wealthy within that high-end industry.


We are informed that a couple of Montecito residents were asked by one prospective buyer to visit and scout out the premises. They reported back:  Don’t bother, the interior has decayed and become a smelly, musty mess (in a beachside enclave whose residents are scared stiff of black mold); that it will likely take a huge chunk of change to bring it back to its former glory and probably not worth the would-be buyer’s effort.


The Investigator stopped by the Biltmore and spoke with an employee, who confirmed that there is no plan to reopen the resort anytime soon; that no such preparations are even scheduled. Furthermore, he confirmed that the interior of the hotel has become a malodorous mess. 


Mold?


“You can imagine what happens to a place, especially by the ocean, when left alone,” he told The Investigator. “But I’d rather not say."


It is shameful that the Beanie Baby tycoon has allowed this Montecito landmark to languish and deteriorate over the past 26 months. The consensus among Montecitans is that Ty’s contribution some years ago toward beautifying Butterfly Beach has, sadly, been soiled by his deliberate neglect and lack of candor.


In this regard, Mr. Warner makes a good case, single-handedly, for a special tax to be excised on commercial properties that are willfully left unoccupied to the detriment of a community.


On another Ty front, a trial is scheduled to begin on May 31st over claims by more than 300 former Biltmore employees that Mr. Warner failed to pay them proper severance and, while they were “furloughed,” canceled their health insurance.


We reached out again to the Biltmore for clarification on a) if they are looking for a buyer and b) a confirmation or denial of decrepit conditions on site. 


The person we reached by phone told us: “We have a skeleton staff. I am not in a position to answer any questions.”


We asked: “Is there someone, anyone, who can answer our questions?”


He replied simply and tersely: “No.”


Maybe the time has come for Ty to create a Beany Baby locust to symbolize the damage he leaves in his wake.


 

BLM (BUNDLES OF LOOTED MONEY)



A local church that houses the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara (corner of East Arrellaga Street and Santa Barbara Avenue) prominently displays a “Black Lives Matter” banner.


It is always unfortunate when religion becomes politicized; one likes to think spirituality deserves a higher plane.


The incongruity is even more pronounced in this case after revelations that BLM administrators have been looting from their $90 million “charity” to pay for real estate benefitting themselves and ensuring that their friends receive hefty salaries and healthy grants.


It gives “Charity Starts at Home” a whole new meaning…


We wrote to the Unitarian Society of SB with these questions: 


“How do you reconcile involving politics in religion/spirituality?”


“Are you aware of recent revelations about BLM administrators looting from their "charity"?

            

Reverend Julia Hamilton responded:  For this congregation, anti-racism work is a spiritual practice, grounded in our commitment to affirming the inherent worth and dignity of all people and honoring the interdependence of our lives. 


“We live in a nation that has systematically devalued Black lives for generations, and as the recent mass shooting in Buffalo has shown, the violent rhetoric of white supremacy is alive and well. We cannot heal from the legacy of slavery, segregation, and white supremacy until we are willing to confront the problem of anti-Blackness and dismantle the systems of oppression that are killing Black people in this nation every day. 

“To proclaim that Black Lives Matter is to be part of a movement for justice, not an organization.


“Institutional racism and white supremacy cause harm and suffering to all members of society, but systemic anti-Blackness must be acknowledged if we are going to make any progress toward healing. This is why we proclaim that Black Lives Matter.”


Good to hear clarification that they are supporting a movement, not a corrupt organization. But we continue to feel that ALL lives matter and, when you study the facts, it is mostly blacks that are killing blacks in this nation every day, not white supremacy and oppression.


 

COVID:  LESSON # 11



A couple readers wrote to reprimand us for neglecting to include the “11th lesson” learned (thus far) from the Covid pandemic.


KK wrote to say: “Thank you for a nearly unbiased article calling out the incompetence over the last couple years. What seems to be mysteriously missing from this list is the role that journalists have played in this mess. Their irresponsible use of power has led many astray and should share the blame with the likes of big pharma, Fauci, our government, etc. If you’re going to go for the big guys, don’t forget to include the role your own industry has played.”

           

           Agreed, KK.  No mystery; here goes: Mainstream journalists with their inane narrative have much to answer for. Part of the problem is the corporatization of media that has taken place over the past 35 years. A media in bed with the corporate world is never a good thing for democracy and a truly free fourth estate. Hooray for the privately owned independent newspapers that manage to remain in business against all odds.

            

           DK was somewhat more aggressive: “At least half of your list of 10 are crimes against humanity and treasonous, and your industry knowingly participated, and you never even attempted to address this. In fact, you lead off blaming China which is another act of deliberate journalistic misdirection. Your actions make you equally guilty, and your admittance of knowing this but not addressing it negates any credibility you are seeking. The only upside of this whole episode is that many ‘journalists’, including yourself, will never be trusted ever again. You lied to everyone.” 


            Sorry, DK, but you are mistaken: The Chinese Communist leadership is fundamentally a Number One in this sad saga because, well, it started with them. That said, the vote is still not in on how complicit our own government was in the biological research going on at Wuhan, funding that was allegedly spearheaded under the table at Anthony Fauci’s direction despite that program having been cancelled by President Obama in 2015.


            My dear old friend MB wrote to say: “I agree, we cannot trust China. They are a dictatorship. Look at what they do to their people. It’s horrible. I don’t agree with what you say about masks. I’ve had no Covid, flu, or a cold, since wearing a mask. My daughter got Covid as soon as she took her mask off.  Do you want your surgeon wearing a mask? I do. 

            

“There is no free money. Taxes were paid for the money (or it was borrowed through the sale of government bonds) that was given to those without a job, due to the lockdown. It helped people to survive. I’m against those who stole from the government Covid related loan program; time to investigate and prosecute. 


“In the pandemic, it was decided to try a new style of vaccine to save lives. Most likely because of the vaccine, when people like yourself, my daughter, and my brother got Covid it was a mild case, not disabling or fatal. That was the great benefit of it. Since the use of the vaccine, most people dying from Covid every day are the unvaccinated. The world is not perfect; we are always learning and growing.”


We agree with some of this, disagree with your stance on masks and vaccines (until more facts are in), but we will always defend to the death your freedom to express your views—all the while remaining friends!