Joe Burns: Maybe e-mail money offers the way to secure my financial future

Joe Burns

Not to brag, but the economic crisis didn’t catch me unprepared.

For starters, most of my money is tied up in debt, which, unlike the stock market, never goes down. But looking ahead, I also made sure that I lined up investment opportunities that would offer quick returns should the need arise.

For years now, I’ve been stockpiling proposals that have been offered to me online. At present I can pick and choose from among 122 moneymaking opportunities. Everyone from Miriam Abacha (the widow of the late Gen. Sanni Abacha, former Nigerian Military Head of State) to Manacha Yengeni (younger brother of the former Chairman of the South African Parliament) have come to me with partnership proposals. (It must be my column that inspires such trust.)

The economic slowdown hasn’t slowed down the offers I’ve received. Only last month, Miss Jeanne Amiot of the Ivory Coast wrote me asking my help in bringing the $6.35 million she inherited from her parents into this country. I can make a quick $1.27 million for my part, while helping out someone who “is too young to handle this transaction.” But a week earlier I learned that a woman named Susan Cookson, who had only a few weeks to live, willed $3.5 million to me. (She told me to keep this confidential, but I know you can keep a secret.) Unlike the sub-prime lenders, I really don’t see the need to be greedy, so if anyone out there would like Miss Amiot’s e-mail address, let me know. (Don’t worry that she doesn’t know you. Just mention my name. She trusts me.)

I refuse to deal with people such as Erick Von Heinz of the First Merit Bank in London or Li Young of the China Trust Commercial Bank, who want me to pretend that I am the next-of-kin to deceased customers that left millions of dollars in their accounts. Taking millions that you haven’t earned is for CEOs who’ve been let go.

But is it greed when you help people in need? No, say the sub-prime lenders, who truly regret having to foreclose on all those families.

And it’s hard to resist the pleas of people in distress, particularly rich people in distress. (Neither President Bush nor Congress can). Remember Miriam Abacha? Well, a week after she wrote me I heard from her son Mohammed, who was falsely accused of murder. He had to get out of Nigeria quickly and needed me to find a safe place for the $25 million his dear, dead, dad left him. Now that’s desperate.

My files are filled with similar stories. There’s Mary Sankoh of Sierra Leone whose husband and daughter were killed by rebels. There’s Usman Billy of Liberia whose father was murdered under orders from the then dictator Charles Taylor. I even received a cry for help from Charles Taylor’s wife, Jewel. (It isn’t her fault her husband is a mass murderer). All desperately need me to help them get millions, which their loved ones had set aside for them, out of their country. All have promised to reward me handsomely.

Some say I’m a fool for placing my economic future in the hands of strangers and their wild promises. But I’m not the only one. How many have placed their faith, finances and future in the hands of strangers named Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs? How many dreams ended up on the wrong end of some investment scheme?

Maybe Mohammed, Miriam and Mary are only after my money. Maybe they’ll drain my savings and ruin my credit. But so can a sinking stock market and a foreclosure notice nailed to a front door.

And, unlike the financial finaglers behind our economic crisis, Mohammed, Miriam and Mary can’t set off a worldwide downslide that threatens millions. But others can and have.

The dominoes of disaster have already been set in motion. Last week Gov. Patrick cut 1,000 state jobs and $1 billion in state spending. What do you think will happen to the economy now that that domino has fallen? Here’s a sample: services for the blind, for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment for heroin addiction are among the areas being cut. Medicaid is losing $293 million.

There are 49 more of those dominoes tumbling right now across this country, and if they’re allowed to continue on their course thousands of jobs will be lost and countless businesses will fold.

We can’t blame state and local governments for cutting budgets. The money isn’t there. But if there is a grand plan for recovery let’s hope this isn’t it. 

While cuts in essential services are happening across the country, we face the likelihood that, no matter which party comes to power, our taxes will likely increase – not to pay for defense, health care or education, but to pay for the frauds and failures of others.

One can concede that there’s a need to rescue the financial institutions that created this mess. But we need to do more than prop up the profiteers who deserve bail more than they deserve a bailout. We need to protect jobs and put people back to work.

Recovery doesn’t start at the top. It starts at the foundation. Anything else is just a pyramid scheme with the many at the bottom supporting the few at the top — a plan no better or more honest than an e-mail scam.

Contact Joe Burns at 508-375-4936 or