Dudes and desperadoes

Lee Pitts

Greedy people are usually stupid people. That’s why dumbos lined up to get in on the action when Charles Ponzi promised a 50 percent return on their money in just 90 days. Ponzi patterned his scheme after a guy named William Miller who promised a 10 percent return. PER WEEK! Then there’s Bernard Madoff. He was able to separate his “friends” from fifty billion of their dollars because he supposedly had a secret formula for making money that no one else knew. I’m just glad I wasn’t one of his friends.

In the past, smooth talking shysters have coaxed greedy idiots into investing in sunken treasure, Florida swampland and even loaves and fishes. Yes, a gun-toting minister in Florida told his parishioners that God had modernized the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and that God had made him a special offer that would allow the minister to double his parishioner’s money faster than you can say “sucker.”

No one would be so stupid to fall for that, you say? Sadly, the believers lost $500 million in trying to corner the loaf and fish market.

Although it pains me to say this, we’ve had our share of crooks in the cattle business too. Some of the great ranching empires in the West owe their existence to a Great-Great grandpappy who had a running iron and the gumption to use it. These “brand artists” gave way to syndicates in the late 1800’s that were put together to fleece Scotsmen. On paper the syndicators showed their investors a huge profit because nearly every cow had twins every year. At least on paper anyway. The crooks were saved when a nasty winter killed so many cattle that the “book count” and the actual head count could never be reconciled.

In more recent times the cattle business has been plagued by check kiters, tax cheats and common cattle crooks. Due to hard economic times, thieves with an aversion to work have made cattle rustling a popular criminal activity once again. Such crooks must be dumber than a dead jelly fish. Anyone who’d risk spending several years in prison for a gooseload of cattle has got to be intellectually challenged. Even if they are free, they are still cows folks! I heard of one case in Texas where one brother stole the cattle and another other brother sold them and they still lost money! Adding insult to injury, their days were soon filled with body-cavity searches and communal showers in a crossbar hotel.

At least the rustlers have to get their hands dirty. Not so, the class of crooks who deal in phantom cattle. You may have heard that the actor Kiefer Sutherland was allegedly bilked for nearly $900,000 by Michael Wayne Carr of Linden, CA. Carr supposedly told the television star that he could buy cattle really cheap in Mexico and sell them on this side of the border and make a big killing. All he needed was the seed money to buy the cattle. You can probably figure out what happened next.

A friend of mine knows this Carr character and says he’s so crooked he could sleep in the shade of a post hole auger. My friend told me a story about Carr that I think irrefutably proves that greed and stupidity are genetically linked. Supposedly Carr walked into the office of a wealthy businessman and presented his get-rich-quick spiel. The potential investor started asking a lot of questions so Carr pulls out his cell phone and said he’d get his American buyer on the line to prove the validity of his claims. Carr dialed numbers on his cell phone and was carrying on a conversation in front of the investor, asking the supposed buyer how many cattle he needed, what weight, and what price he’d be willing to pay. Then his cell phone rang!

The moral of the story? Never buy cattle from a crook who’s not smart enough to turn off his cell phone when he’s making a fake phone call.