‘Julian Wellington” killed Fred Turbide last month as surely as if he had pulled the trigger himself.
“Julian Wellington” is the false name of the Israel-based crook who a few weeks ago, posing as an experienced investment broker, conned the Canadian father-of-four out of his savings, a six-figure sum, and appeared to remain unmoved when Turbide, on December 21, told him in abject despair that he was about to take his own life. 23Traders, the fraudulent binary options firm “Wellington” worked for, even somehow extracted more money from Turbide’s credit card after his suicide, Canadian law enforcement officials say. (23Traders says all these claims are “absolutely false.”)
The transcripts of Fred Turbide’s Skype conversations with “Wellington,” given to The Times of Israel by his grieving widow Maria, make for heartbreaking reading. In the course of three weeks from the end of November, we read how “Wellington” won the trust of the victim he calls “dear brother,” and “my good sir,” squeezed every last cent out of him, squeezed some more, and then cut him loose. Writes Turbide in the last hours before he took his life on December 21: “I cannot breathe anymore properly, please save me.” And “My angel, please call me.” And finally, “I am done for now, Julian.”
Turbide shot himself dead in his Edmonton garage soon after making an unanswered call, at 3:59 p.m. that day, to “Wellington.”
“Julian Wellington” was the agent of Fred Turbide’s suicide. But, it needs to be said, the law enforcement authorities of the State of Israel, through their inaction, were a partial facilitator.
For almost a full decade, the plague of binary options fraud has been allowed to blight the lives of countless victims all over the world. A pestilence hatched in Zion, and willfully allowed to fester here.
Some aspects of the fraud are complex, indeed, involving rigged trading platforms, discrepancies between prices given to traders and those of the market, and other manipulations that require careful investigation to prove, and may even require new legislation to outlaw.
Since when did police take no action against crooked financial firms refusing to allow clients to withdraw their money? Since 2008, and the unimpeded rise of Israeli binary options fraud
But much of the fraud is crude and obvious, and breaches all manner of existing laws, including that great, big, Top 10 offense: Thou shalt not steal.
And yet the stealing has continued with ever more devastating consequences since 2008, and Israel’s law enforcement authorities have done next to nothing to stop it. Since when have police turned a blind eye to crooks making unauthorized charges on customers’ credit cards? Since when have police taken no action against crooked financial firms refusing to allow clients to withdraw their money? Since 2008, and the unimpeded rise of Israeli binary options fraud.
The Times of Israel became aware of the massive fraud last March, when our reporter Simona Weinglass published the first of our exposés on it, entitled “The Wolves of Tel Aviv.” By then, the fraudsters — over 100 Israel-based companies, employing thousands of young Israelis, fleecing hundreds of thousands of victims worldwide, out of billions of dollars — had been in full swing for eight years.
It is an exceptionally slick contagion of misrepresentation and deceit, that dupes trusting, decent people
Other Israeli media outlets have given intermittent coverage to the scourge, but none has grasped its vast dimensions. Nor have they all grasped that this is not an industry catering to gamblers, for whom one might have little sympathy. It is an exceptionally slick contagion of misrepresentation and deceit, that dupes trusting, decent people — reeling in victims via targeted advertising, manipulative SEO (search engine optimization), and compelling videos. You don’t have to be especially avaricious or foolish to fall for the well-honed pitches, and the result is often financial ruin.
Last month, Israel’s Channel 10 news carried a short item featuring Skype calls to two victims in the Arab world. Quite piquant it was — two Arab gentlemen who belatedly recognized they’d been ripped off by con artists from the Jewish state, and who spoke about the wider realization dawning in their countries that this systematic fraud is operated from Israel. As I write this, I am looking at lists of clients from just two of the 100-plus Israeli companies. One list features the names of some 700 depositors from around the Arab world — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the Palestinian territories, Iraq, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain… The other details some 300 clients from all over the world, ranked by value of deposit, with Arab countries prominent. The sums range from over $600,000 to $1,000. To stress, these are partial listings of customers from just two Israeli firms.
Left undisturbed, as one source told us, these fraudulent firms will eventually call everybody on earth, and try to trick us all into trusting them with our money. As things stand, we were further told, they have already begun partnering with some call centers in Eastern Europe, where operators literally go page by page through the phone book trying to lure clientele.
Last summer, we went to interview Shmuel Hauser, the head of the Israeli Securities Authority. He publicly expressed his disgust at the fraud, and warned of the damage to Israel’s good name: “We are in a situation where [the binary options firms] are offering this to people abroad, and Israel’s reputation is being harmed in an extreme way. It’s being harmed. We know this,” he said. Belatedly, he began working to draft legislation to bar all Israeli binary options firms from targeting anybody, anywhere. That legislation — building on legislation last year that bars the firms from targeting Israelis — is slowly being drafted.
Jewish Agency chief Natan Sharansky implored new immigrants — much prized by binary options fraudsters because of their foreign language skills — to stay away from the immoral field. After our reports came to the attention of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his office in October issued a statement calling for the entire industry, with its “unscrupulous” practices, to be outlawed worldwide.
But when it comes to Israel’s law enforcement authorities — the police and various state investigation and prosecution authorities — it has been a very different story. As we have sought to understand from Israel Police how deeply they have investigated the plague of crime, what they have established, and what they are doing about it, we have repeatedly run into a brick wall. Spokespeople have been unhelpful and unresponsive. Interview requests have been repeatedly rejected. The same goes for some spokespeople in the state prosecution hierarchy.
The largest, most ruinous case of corruption ever carried out by citizens of Israel
The police’s inaccessibility is not limited to the Times of Israel. Outrageously, the police blew off a request by the chair of the Knesset State Control Committee, MK Karin Elharar, to testify at the session the panel held last month on binary options fraud. They simply didn’t turn up. Last month, the FBI and other US authorities joined financial regulators and investigators from some 20 European Union member-states for an unprecedented summit to tackle binary options fraud. The Israel Police did not attend; it is not clear whether they were invited.
This column does not charge that some sinister, wide-ranging cover-up is taking place here. It most emphatically does charge that Israeli law enforcement has failed, and continues to fail, to tackle the largest, most ruinous case of corruption ever carried out by citizens of Israel, a crime that involves thousands of Israelis going to work each and every day to steal money from trusting individuals all over the world.
The abiding failure to stamp out binary options fraud by simply raiding the firms all over Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Herzliya, Caesarea and beyond, arresting those responsible and bringing them to justice, may be a consequence of abject police incompetence. It may be that there are directives higher up not to damage tax revenues or to trigger unemployment, potentially leading to mortgage defaults and other economic fallout, by tackling the fraudulent industry. Perhaps there is indifference to the devastating impact of Israeli binary options fraud on all those trusting individuals all over the world. Or maybe the police are personally fearful of some of the criminals involved. Conflicts of interest could be at play: We have learned of binary options company owners and staffers with connections to serving or former police officers, religious leaders, government officials, political activists and politicians. I honestly don’t know.
I do know, however, that it did not take The Times of Israel a great deal of time to establish the name and location of the call center in Israel from which 23Traders goes about its business. And if we could find it after Fred Turbide’s suicide, Israel Police could have done so before Fred Turbide’s suicide. And arrested “Julian Wellington.” And saved Fred Turbide’s life.
True to abysmal form, Israel Police has made no response to news that Fred Turbide was pushed to suicide by the duplicitous practices of an Israeli binary options firm. To the best of our knowledge, 23Traders continues to go merrily about its business.
And, I should add, Fred Turbide’s suicide is not the first of which we have heard, although it is the first of which we have full details. His is not the first life lost as a direct consequence of the Israeli binary options fraudsters who have been left to their despicable devices by the unconscionable failure of Israel’s law enforcement authorities. Appallingly, there is no reason to think it will be the last.