Sunday, February 01, 2009

Open Letter to Agape World Inc "Investors"

Readers, I have been attempting to communicate with Agape World Inc. investors who have been talking trash as well as debating the issues of whether the President of Agape World Inc. was able to run an alleged "Ponzi scheme" by himself or if others knew what he was doing.

Of course, many of the folks on the bulletin board service do not like what I have to say. Others did not believe it was me saying it. They pointed to poor sentences and other grammatical errors which plague my writing when I am in a hurry. Of course I did what I usually do. I typed out my thoughts before I forgot them all, then went back to try to edit these thoughts and hit the wrong key thereby printing the response instead, errors and all.

A couple of folks were worried my post was by an anonymous person acting like they were me. I set the record straight in the letter below. I re-read the letter and decided it was worth reprinting it here too. I also edited the post before I sent it...

To whom this may concern:

Thank you for taking the time to ask if I posted on "Fat Wallet."

I am the person who posted to the board. For those that felt that the post was poorly written, I hit the send button in error before I could edit the post. Nevertheless, I think I put the salient points across.

I understand people lost money. Some lost a lot of money, and they are justifiably upset. I also understand that it easy to lash out at people, especially when you can do it anonymously. I am responding as best I can, to investors where I can find them, and I am trying to do it in a non argumentative way. I use my real name because I think that the "anonymity" on the bulletin boards in part led to people not taking the warnings about Agape seriously.

Anthony Massaro is, in my opinion, a good man. He met a person who by all accounts was the consummate "con man." Any "con man" worth his salt slowly builds confidence in his "marks" (BTW I saw that you are having a discussion on what to call people who have been cheated. They are neither "investors", "losers", or "victims". They are "marks".) Cosmo started on his friends family and acquaintances. The more he kept promises, the more they believed in what he was doing. ( I noticed someone asked if Anthony ever told anyone where he met Nick. He told anyone who asked. Did any of you ask?)

No one can deny that Cosmo kept his books to himself. No one has come forward with a single shred of hard evidence that VPs or sub-brokers knew of, or saw, anything awry. All I have heard from marks, reporters and on the boards, is that the salesmen "Had to know". While it is a reasonable suspicion it is by far not proof. When it is held to the facts as we know them, it is no longer a reasonable suspicion.

I understand that this business had accountants lawyers and bookkeepers. It filed taxes. Why is it no one on Fat Wallet or in the press calling for these people to answer? Moreover, if done well (and I have no reason to think Cosmo didn't do it well) even these financial employees can be kept in the dark. Nevertheless can you see that their signing off on these documents gave the VP's and brokers even more to believe in?

I agree, Cosmo surrounded himself with men and women who could not challenge him. They knew little. They were mostly not business law educated. Some people on the floor of the NYSE and other exchanges do not have more than a HS education. If they go to the right firm however they learn. I doubt Agape was the right kind of firm. Agape employees had no idea what questions to ask. Even if they asked, they did not know enough to understand whether they were getting the right answers. If the answers sounded right, their belief level rose again. Nick Cosmo knows how to answer questions. (See the 22 "seminars" he held in December '08.)

Finally, belief in the company hit a pinnacle when Entrepreneur Inc. named the company one of the Top 100 Up and Coming Businesses. Imagine the pride these employees must have had. Imagine if you can, the belief and excitement they must have generated and what they told their friends and families. Instead of thinking they were "in on it", just for a moment, imagine they weren't, and think about how they felt about themselves and their company's accomplishments.

Now maybe you can imagine the betrayal they feel. If I am right, and again I have seen nothing hard showing me otherwise, you were betrayed by Nick Cosmo, a man who you barely or didn't know. They were betrayed by their boss. A person they came to believe in like a business "guru." A man who told them he was their friend and who it turned out cared as little for them as he does for you. Now imagine having to go home to tell your spouse that your whole life was built around a house of cards. On top of this, add people calling for your death or arrest etc. The same people, who only months before were inviting you to dinners, weddings, house warnings, and other parties that you helped make possible through Agape World Inc.

These employees have families and homes, They had savings accounts and retirement funds invested too. They thought they had found the goose that laid the golden egg, and they were giving that to other friends and family. Now they are alone, they are not able to speak to these same friends and families. They are despised and the people who heralded them just a few short months ago, have turned on them.

Maybe you are too angry to hear this, maybe you are so angry that you cannot imagine what I am saying. That doesn't make what I am saying not true. In fact, what I am saying is by far more provable than what some "marks" are suggesting.

That "They had to know" line is certainly convenient, and may make a few "marks" feel better that they were ripped off by a team of "con men" instead of by one guy, but it doesn't equal proof by even a preponderance of the evidence, much less beyond a reasonable doubt.

Someone had mentioned that the "brokers" had to have a Series 7. I do not agree. I do not think the law presently requires people who pool money to lend at a profit have to have any regulation at this time. This case may change that, but if it does, it does so at a great risk to legitimate lenders and moreover to needy borrowers. I do not however, wish to debate the issue now.

I would like to say one more thing however. Some of you have suggested that I must not be a very good lawyer because I have chosen to come on Fat Wallet and other websites to respond to some of the things I have seen written there. I guess I have a different way of practicing law than most people do. I think that it is important to have someone challenge, rationally, the proposition that where there is smoke there must always be fire. Sometimes when there is smoke, all it is, is smoke.

My client is sad, dazed, and right now, alone. If I am right, he did nothing more than any other mark has, but he has lost far more than they, he has lost not just money he had counted on, but a support and a belief system. While I understand the anger, it is a shame that others cannot withhold judgment until all the facts are aired. Until then, these men and women are entitled to be presumed innocent by each of you.

There you have it. I may be unconventional, but I think that people should hear both sides of things before they decide something as important as whether to charge a person based on nothing more than conjecture.

I will try to catch up with you all later this week.