defendant’s website takes prosecutors to task
Kim Smith - Wednesday, July 10, 2002 | 8:58 a.m. Las Vegas Sun
Franklyn Perry, who is sitting in the Clark County Detention Center awaiting trial on charges of bilking 1,100 people out of $40 million, is making waves with his website again.
A couple of months ago prosecutors asked District Judge Nancy Saitta to force Perry to remove the addresses of his alleged victims from his website -- www.FranklynPerry-notguilty.com -- citing privacy concerns.
Now, prosecutors are shaking their head at the latest items posted through Perry's supporters on the outside.
In one, Perry claims he will soon be airing video and audio tapes of the "financial transactions" he made with his clients in an attempt to prove his innocence.
In the other, Perry admonishes Chief Deputy District Attorney Ed Kane for allegedly ignoring a murder suspect's attempts to help solve four unsolved murder cases.
Last month attorneys said Perry had become an informant in a murder case involving a client of one of Perry's attorneys.
Kane told reporters that Perry had allegedly written law enforcement officials offering information about Jamon Brooks, who is one of several men accused in a fatal drive-by shooting.
Defense attorney Pete Christiansen, who represented both Brooks and Perry, successfully argued that he should be removed from at least one of Perry's cases.
In Perry's latest web posting, Perry accuses Kane of "assassinating his character" by portraying him as a snitch in the news story about Christiansen.
Perry insists that Brooks came to him with information about four unsolved murders because he couldn't get anyone to listen to him. He didn't go to Brooks, Perry said.
"I, Franklyn Perry never sent any correspondence concerning Brooks to anyone. As stated above, Brooks attempted to contact the district attorneys office, detectives, judges, attorneys, no one cared about murders that were unsolved," Perry wrote.
Perry says that Kane should be ashamed for doing nothing to alleviate the pain of the murder victims' families.
He goes on to say "I never asked to be placed in this situation, nor did I ask for any leniency on any of my existing charges."
Kane and Chief Deputy District Attorney Christopher Laurent, however, say that Perry never does anything without expecting some benefit.
"He's a manipulator," Laurent said flatly. "He's trying to cast himself as the victim and as a good guy. He wants to taint the jury pool in whatever way he can."
"He's just selling more shinola," Laurent went on to say.
Kane said the information provided by Perry has been provided to the police, but he declined to comment on any ongoing investigations.
"My gut tells me that Franklyn Perry, since he drew his first breath, has never done anything to benefit anyone but himself," Kane said.
Laurent said police have no reason to believe that Perry recorded any of the transactions with his alleged victims. No tapes or recording equipment has ever been found and two co-defendants are unaware of any recordings, Laurent said.
"I would be very surprised if they're there," Laurent said of any recordings.
Police allege Perry promised investors huge returns on loans to high-rolling gamblers who had hit their credit limits at area casinos.
Police said he would pay some investors a few hundred dollars a week, saying it was the return on the money they gave him. The weekly payoffs often enticed others into the scheme, which required a minimum buy-in of $10,000, police said.
Authorities seized between $22 million and $23 million in cash, in addition to real property, such as cars and boats, from Perry last year.
On his web page, Perry claims that all of the loans would have been paid back had Metro not "illegally" seized the funds from him.
On his home page, Perry promises the website will provide "Factual Information To All LENDERS That Reveals how Franklyn Perry has always protected 'YOUR MONEY,' and Is Still Safe In A Vault. Read The Truth About How Frank's Main Goal Is To Return Your Money, and Keep The State For SPENDING It!"
sentenced to 15 to 75 years in scheme
Jace Radke - Las Vegas Sun, Tuesday, June 24, 2003 | 11:10 a.m.
Franklyn Perry doled out gratitude and advice on how to steer clear of scam artists Monday, just before being sentenced to 15 to 75 years in prison for stealing money in a pyramid scheme.
"If it's too good to be true it probably is," Perry said to Clark County District Judge Nancy Saitta. "(Investors) should ask themselves if what they are doing would jeopardize their financial future.
"People can just remember to use Frank's B.S. test. If only my clients had used this 'be-smart test,' none of us would be in this courtroom today."
Authorities estimate that Perry, who pled to 15 counts of securities fraud, received about $40 million from about 1,174 investors worldwide by telling investors he was lending money to high-rolling gamblers who had hit their credit limits at local casinos.
For about 10 minutes Monday, Perry, 68, read a sometimes rambling statement from a legal pad, thanking various judges, attorneys, corrections officers and even the person who made an anonymous tip about his Ponzi scheme.
"I need to thank the telephone tipster who for 35 cents brought down a multimillion-dollar scam," Perry said.
Perry also congratulated former District Attorney Stewart Bell on his election to the District Court bench and offered an endorsement for Judge Michael L. Douglas.
He also asked the victims of the scam to forgive him, and said he would make every effort to repay them.
Madeleine Johnsen, a 77-year-old woman who invested $89,000 with Perry between 1988 and 1990, took the stand after Perry spoke to explain how her life had changed since losing money in the scheme.
"I now have severe heart problems, cancer and little money, but I wouldn't want to be in your shoes today," Johnsen said to Perry. "You said today that you would pay the money back, but when do I get my money back?"
Johnsen, who has lived in Las Vegas for 35 years, said she has to survive on monthly Social Security checks of $720 each.
Perry was also ordered to pay $157,000 in restitution, but that money will only go to the victims named in the counts that Perry pleaded guilty to. In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped more than 500 securities fraud charges as well as a separate case in which Perry faced 48 sexual assault and child pornography counts stemming from phone calls Perry made to a teenage girl from jail.
Perry's attorney, Michael Cristalli, asked Saitta to strike any reference to the sexual assault counts in Perry's pre-sentence report, saying that it could hamper his future possibility of parole, but Saitta refused.
Johnsen's recollections of Perry contrasted sharply with the man who spoke Monday of how fairly he was treated by Metro Police and who constantly apologized to anyone involved in the scheme.
"I was in dire fear for my life," said Johnsen, who reported that Perry had threatened her life on multiple occasions. "I was afraid he was going to blow up my car.
"One time I went up to the window of his car and asked when I was going to get my money back and he told me he had a gun in the front seat and that I was harassing him. He said he could shoot me and not be held responsible."
After the sentencing, Deputy District Attorney James Sweetin explained to Johnsen that the sentence means that Perry will likely do about 20 years in prison.
"He's 68 now, so the odds are neither one of us will live to see him get out," Johnsen said.
Witness, Burgess both claim they
were helping FBI
Las Vegas Sun, Thursday, July 26, 2001 | 10:40 a.m.
The dilemma for the jury in the Jerald Burgess federal firearms trial: Which ex-con do you believe?
Burgess, 64, the central figure in the disappearance of a Las Vegas boy 23 years ago and a convicted felon on sexual assault and tax evasion charges in the late 1970s and early '80s, is on trial on charges of being a felon in possession of a handgun, semi-automatic rifle and several cartons of ammunition.
Franklyn Perry, 61, the central figure in a pending trial for a pyramid scheme that allegedly bilked hundreds of investors out of millions of dollars, was a key witness for the defense, although it appeared he did more Wednesday to help the prosecution's case.
Both claimed they were helping the FBI nail the other on potential criminal charges.
Burgess said he went so far after the two were arrested nine months ago to give an incriminating signed statement after an FBI agent said, "We need to make this look good for Frank (Perry)," who Burgess said he thought was the agents' target at that time.
Burgess' attorney Bob Glennen has been building a defense in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson that alleges "outrageous government conduct." Both he and Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Ko were expected to make closing arguments this afternoon.
On Wednesday the jury heard both Perry and Burgess deliver convincing yet sharply contrasting testimony -- Burgess in a business suit and Perry in blue Clark County Detention Center fatigues and leg shackles.
Perry testified he was an FBI informant who stuck to limited guidelines and engaged in no illegal acts to get Burgess to sell weapons to undercover agents.
Burgess testified he was "no snitch" but decided to help the FBI after agents -- the same ones who were working with Perry, it turns out -- contacted him and asked him to help them locate what they allegedly said was a missing FBI agent who they thought had been in recent contact with Perry.
Burgess made headlines in the late 1970s as a suspect in the disappearance of 6-year-old Cary Sayegh, son of wealthy local business owners. He was acquitted by a Clark County District Court jury of kidnapping in 1981, but was never charged with murder in the case.
The Las Vegas Sun, under late publisher Hank Greenspun, had launched an investigative crusade to discover Sayegh's fate.
The FBI reopened that case two years ago to find evidence that would lead authorities to Sayegh's body and potential murder charges against his accused killer. Burgess in the early 1980s led authorities to where he thought Sayegh was buried, but only a shoe was found. Burgess has remained an apparent target of authorities for nearly 20 years. There is no statute of limitations for murder.
"I was trying to get information on behalf of the FBI ... to penetrate Mr. Burgess," Perry testified. "It resulted in Mr. Burgess being arrested and charged with a felony ... Yeah, I think I helped the community out."
Repeated questions by Glennen and Ko about Perry being authorized by the FBI to break laws in his information-gathering assignment brought responses of "absolutely not" from Perry, who testified he received $11,000 from the FBI for his work that led to Burgess' Oct. 12 arrest.
The jury also heard that since 1963, Perry has been arrested on numerous charges, including passing bad checks, fraud, grand theft, possession of stolen property and tax evasion. He was on parole after serving 12 years of a 25-year sentence at the time of his recent arrest.
Perry testified that Burgess on several occasions over a period of 30 to 45 days brought up the subject of guns, saying he could provide him everything from handguns to rockets. Burgess testified it was Perry who constantly was bugging him to get him an Uzi, M-16 or submachine gun.
"Jerald Burgess (said he could) provide any type of weaponry I wanted," Perry said, noting he was posing as a businessman who would purchase a range of products, including watches and jewelry, and market them to retail outlets. Burgess, a jeweler by trade, testified he was in the process of starting a handmade jewelry business out of his home and initially thought Perry was a good contact.
Burgess said Perry "fabricated" the weapons testimony, saying it was ridiculous because there was no way he could get his hands on such military weapons.
"I do not own a gun, I do not possess a gun," Burgess testified, saying he got the pistol for Perry after Perry said he needed it to give to his daughter for protection, and threatened to break off business dealings with Burgess if he did not get the gun.
Burgess also testified he had given Perry an expensive ring and watch to sell through a local jewelry store that Perry claimed he co-owned, then was ordered by Perry to get him the high-powered rifle or "you can kiss your watch and ring good-bye," Burgess said, quoting Perry.
When Burgess allegedly first brought up the subject of guns, Perry testified, he called the FBI. When Perry allegedly first brought up the subject of guns, Burgess testified, he called the FBI.
Franklyn Perry’s lawyers at odds
with their client
Kim Smith, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2001 | 8:42 a.m.
District Judge Michael Douglas on Tuesday ordered defense attorneys for scam-artist suspect Franklyn Perry to meet with their client in an attempt to resolve difficulties the attorneys are having him.
Perry in April is scheduled to go to trial to face 48 sex-related charges, but he is also a suspect in a Ponzi scheme that authorities say resulted in about 1,000 people being scammed out of more than $40 million.
Metro Police seized $22 million from Perry, and District Judge Mark Denton appointed three special masters to manage the money after several lawsuits were filed laying claim.
Perry and some of his investors claim Metro unlawfully seized the funds, while other investors have filed fraud lawsuits against Perry.
In the sex case, authorities believe Perry convinced a 12-year-old girl to pose for sexually explicit photographs and arrange for them to be delivered to him. He also is accused of convincing her to engage in sex acts while on the phone with him.
Defense attorneys Mace Yampolsky and Garrett Ogata were appointed to represent Perry in the sex case in October after Perry's original attorney, Barry Levinson, asked to be removed.
Now Yampolsky and Ogata are also asking to be replaced. According to a motion filed with Douglas, their relationship with Perry has suffered because Perry has been discussing his situation with other attorneys.
Perry told Douglas Tuesday morning that Levinson has been "harassing" him and it was Levinson's idea to file the lawsuit against Metro. Perry said he apologized to Yampolsky and Ogata and would like them to remain on the case.
Ogata said he believes Perry has been discussing his case with people other than Levinson.
Douglas told Perry that there can only be one "captain" involved in his case and it should be his criminal defense attorneys. The judge then told Ogata that he and Yampolsky should meet with Perry in an attempt to repair the relationship.
Douglas scheduled a status hearing for Thursday on the matter.
Levinson, who was retained by Perry, said he withdrew from the case because Perry wouldn't take his advice.
"He's the one who was bugging me to initiate the class action lawsuit," Levinson said. "He was calling me and bugging me. Once a con always a con."
Levinson said he doesn't want anything more to do with Perry.
Prosecutors continue to work on putting together a fraud case against Perry. Once completed, they intend to present it to either a grand jury or to a magistrate during a preliminary hearing.
Police allege that Perry told investors he was loaning money to high-roller gamblers who had hit their credit limits at area casinos.
Police said Perry would pay some investors a few hundred dollars a week, saying the payments were returns on the money they had loaned him. The weekly payoffs often convinced others to buy into the scheme, which required a minimum buy-in of $10,000
Scheme Weaver - Franklyn Perry
scammed more than $200 million from Las Vegas residents in a series of cons.
So why was he on the FBI payroll?
From Las Vegas Life, January, 2002
Franklyn Perry filled suitcases with hundred-dollar bills the way most of us fill jars with loose change. When police busted him in July of 2001, the stacks filled more than a dozen suitcases at his home in the Fiesta Lakes subdivision, as well as a collection of large Tupperware tubs at another home along the 17th fairway of the Los Prados Country Club.
It took 15 hours to count the money using sophisticated machines provided by a local bank. The final tally: more than $23 million. Perry told officers that he had no idea he had that much money lying around, a statement supported somewhat by the fact that the alarm was not on at the unoccupied Fiesta Lakes house when the police arrived.
He could explain, he said-not just the piles of money, but also the pornographic pictures of a young girl found in his dresser. His explanation: he was a confidential informant for the FBI. The feds, he said, could explain everything. In fact, he was working for the feds and had helped with several of the most prominent criminal investigations in the Valley in recent years.
But he left out the other part-the part that would become clear over the next few months. Franklyn Perry, the doughy, soft-spoken 61-year-old who sat calmly with investigators in July, was also perhaps the most successful con man in Las Vegas history.
In at least three separate scams spread out over 25 years, all based in Las Vegas, Perry allegedly stole as much as $200 million from his victims with methods as simple as they were smooth. Described by prosecutors as "a scavenger" and "a master manipulator," Perry was able to present himself as all things to all people. A mobbed- up businessman to one, to another he was a gentle widower who played Tooth Fairy with $100 bills, and a retired military intelligence officer to yet another. At five feet, nine inches tall and 260 pounds, with the face of a cocker spaniel, he appeared anything but dangerous.
An astute student of human nature, Perry appealed to his investors' larcenous side by telling them that reporting profits to the IRS was optional. His favorite saying, according to one lawyer who represented Perry, was that "greed always overcomes skepticism." He was proven right over and over again.
According to the mounting evidence, Perry ran a classic Ponzi scheme: He paid his early investors handsome returns to attract bigger money. Con men around the world use variations of the same scheme to separate gullible investors from their money. But it's no coincidence Perry was able to have such breathtaking success in Las Vegas, one of the great boom towns of the 20th century. Vegas residents, more than most, understand that being at the right place at the right time is at least as important as hard work and moral rectitude in building wealth. The story is in the skyline: Money is available to those opportunistic souls willing to take the right gamble.
Perry's victims-more than 1,000 in all-include millionaires, rock stars and ministers, but most of them were working-class folks with a little money socked away that they hoped to turn into a nice retirement or a private-school education for their children. His primary skill was in convincing them that this was the right time and the right place to get it.
Those who will talk about it now, albeit reluctantly, acknowledge their complicity-they were simply greedy and convinced themselves that this too-good-to-be-true opportunity was the real thing. Many others refuse to talk, perhaps wary of attracting attention from the IRS. Still others, identified by police and other investors as among Perry's investors, adamantly deny they were ever involved with Perry.
Collectively, they gave Perry his millions. But, in his greatest scam, he apparently conned the FBI into giving him his freedom.
Perry is now locked up at the Clark County Detention Center and will probably never be a free man again. A grand jury began hearing evidence on the fraud allegations in early December, and Clark County Chief Deputy District Attorney Christopher Laurent says he expects to charge Perry with more than 150 counts for the sale of an unregistered security, fraudulent sale of a security and obtaining money under false pretenses. He was also indicted on multiple counts of possession of child pornography because of the pictures found at his house, several of which showed a 12-year-old girl performing sex acts with a dog.
Laurent feels good about his case. Besides the obvious evidence of the pictures, he has taped conversations of Perry soliciting fraudulent investments from undercover police officers. However, Perry has been backed into a corner before, only to use his skills of manipulation to his advantage and to the detriment of countless others.
It is hard to document the activities of anyone over the course of more than 60 years, much less of someone who may be a pathological liar. Based on court records and interviews with Perry's victims over the past quarter-century, this is what we know:
Franklyn Gene Perry grew up in Quincy, Illinois, a town of about 40,000 on the east bank of the Mississippi. He married his high school sweetheart and left town soon thereafter to make his fortune, though "when he left Illinois, he didn't have two nickels left in his pocket," says Cecil Steffen, who attended high school with Perry. Perry didn't come back for almost 20 years, but his return in the late 1970s caused a big splash in the small town. Within two weeks, he bought a half-million-dollar home in the nicest subdivision and a less extravagant house for his mother-in-law. He also bought a series of cars and boats-always paying cash.
He told his new neighbors that he owned an enormously profitable company called Prime Land Development that was buying and selling large chunks of property in the Las Vegas area. (It's not clear if Perry actually lived in Las Vegas prior to his return to Quincy, but evidence suggests he had at least spent some time there.) It wasn't long before the locals in Quincy wanted to share in Perry's good fortune. A number of them, including several family members, invested money with Perry.
He hired Steffen, who was working as a car salesman, as his business manager. Perry flew back and forth to Las Vegas frequently but spent ample time living large around Quincy. He wore the nicest cowboy boots available and dined on the most expensive steaks, though he rarely drank and apparently never did drugs. His primary vice was women.
"The man had a seven-day-a-week habit with women," Steffen says. Perry wined and dined the women he targeted, at times showering them with diamond rings and other expensive jewelry even though he rarely kept a girlfriend for long and managed to hide his liaisons from his wife. He once set his sights on a local waitress and offered her $15,000 to sleep with him. She eventually accepted. Another time, Steffen says, Perry paid a flight attendant $10,000 to spend the night with him in Chicago.
Eventually, though, Perry lost his cache in Quincy when the investors' realized huge profits were not forthcoming. Some of them threatened to go to the authorities if they didn't get paid back. Perry relented and made good everyone in Quincy who had invested with him. Steffen says Perry felt he couldn't afford for the town to turn against him since his in-laws lived there. So in 1980 Perry moved his operation to Las Vegas for good.
In Las Vegas, he worked for a time at a nursery but boasted of his talent for growing piles of money. As in Quincy, he didn't market himself but relied on word of mouth to attract new money. It didn't take long for his legend spread around the Southwest.
The Rev. Charles Duplissey of Silsbee, Texas, heard about Perry from his brother, a Las Vegas electrician, sometime in the late 1970s. He initially invested $133,000 in September 1979, a sum that included money from several parishioners and other friends. At the exchange, which took place at another investor's house, Perry placed the minister's investment into a briefcase loaded with cash. Perry told Duplissey the briefcase contained $1 million. The minister was impressed.
But when Duplissey returned to Las Vegas several weeks later to collect his profits, Perry seemed crestfallen. He said he ran into a problem and the money was all gone.
As a token of trust, Perry offered to pay back the investment in full. Or, he added, Duplissey could invest in the next deal coming down the pipe-a sure thing. Duplissey, impressed with Perry's apparent integrity, rolled the dice one more time. For more than a year, Perry continued to keep the carrot just out of reach. He paid Duplissey a small sum periodically, but always sought more in pursuit of what he said was the next big deal. The deals themselves varied: There was one to buy foreign oil and sell it at a steep markup in the domestic market and another to buy timber in an Arkansas forest that Jack Daniels used to distill its whiskey. None of the deals ever materialized; Duplissey forked over more than $500,000 altogether.
Duplissey visited Las Vegas regularly in an attempt to get his money back. On several occasions, Perry asked Duplissey to meet him at Oscar Goodman's law office to work out a settlement. Duplissey says he was shown into a conference room on at least one occasion and told to wait for Perry and Goodman to arrive. Neither man showed.
Goodman's firm, which built its reputation defending mob figures, represented Perry in several criminal and civil matters in the late 1970s and early 1980s, though it is not clear how involved Goodman was in those cases. Several people who had dealings with Perry say he used his association with Goodman to his advantage. At times, Perry sought to impress wary investors and other skeptics by flaunting the fact that he was able to hire such a high profile attorney. At other times, Perry casually dropped Goodman's name to suggest the possibility that Perry might have connections with some of Goodman's more unsavory clients.
Goodman would only respond through a spokesman: "I have no use for Mr. Perry," he says. He declined further comment.
Meanwhile, other investors were facing difficulties similar to Duplissey's. D.B. "Tink" Wilkerson Jr., a Tulsa, Oklahoma, auto dealer and a member of the board of directors at Oral Roberts University, gave Perry $2 million with a guarantee of 100 percent returns. He says he was introduced to Perry in 1980 by a Las Vegas couple who owned a national restaurant chain.
Perry "was the master of reverse psychology," Wilkerson says. When he first met with Perry, he asked tough questions about Perry's credentials and the nature of the investments. Perry didn't like it. He picked up his briefcase and said he had too many other clients to waste time being interrogated by Wilkerson. "That turned my crank just immediately," Wilkerson recalls. A wheeler-dealer in Oklahoma's oil-boom economy at the time, Wilkerson was impressed with Perry's willingness to walk away from such a large investment. He turned over $1 million-in cash-the next week, and another million in varying increments thereafter.
But, like Duplissey, Wilkerson eventually realized he was not going to get the returns he was promised and asked for his money back. Perry refused, and evaded Wilkerson when the Tulsa millionaire flew to Las Vegas to confront him. At one point, according to Wilkerson, Perry threatened to blow up Wilkerson's car if he did not end his pursuit. In response, the car dealer bought a device that allowed him to start his car from 100 yards away.
Then Wilkerson went on the offensive. In 1980, he sent two men to Las Vegas to collect the money he believed Perry owed him. One of the men worked for Wilkerson as a repo man, and was not immune to playing rough. "They never hurt anybody, but they could have," Wilkerson says. "I sent these boys out there to pick (the money) up and they went to him."
Perry claimed the men took him out to the desert and threatened to kill him. He pressed charges, claiming the men not only assaulted him but stole a collection of guns and several hundred thousand dollars from the trunk of his car. (Wilkerson says that, other than two plots of land in Pahrump that eventually sold for $20,000, he never received any money from Perry in return for his investment.) Wilkerson hired famed Houston defense attorney Richard "Racehorse" Haynes to defend the men and they were never convicted.
Duplissey and Wilkerson were apparently just the tip of the iceberg. Steffen, Perry's business manager from Quincy, says he and his wife visited Perry in Las Vegas numerous times during 1980 and 1981 at an impressive house in the mountains as well as a home in town, which featured horses and stables on several acres. On one occasion, Perry asked Steffen's wife to collate the promissory notes from his various investors. Perry asked what the total was and she replied $47 million. "That ain't shit," Perry replied. "I scammed those sons-a-bitches for $124 million."
Perry told Steffens he had cash buried in cans out in the desert as well as at the bottom of two 40-gallon containers in his stable that were topped with feed for the horses. Steffens, aware that his boss was likely ripping off his investors, parted ways with Perry in 1981. The government did not catch up to Perry until three years later, in 1984, when he was charged with 13 counts of wire fraud and tax evasion. Perry was represented by flamboyant San Francisco attorney Tony Serra (who was played by James Woods in the 1989 movie True Believer), but the attorney had little to work with-the first witness at the trial was Rev. Duplissey.
The government eventually secured a 25-year sentence for Perry, at the time the longest sentence ever for the tax division of the Justice Department. Bob Dickerson, a federal prosecutor based in Las Vegas, handled the case along with Richard Leon, an attorney with the Justice Department from Washington D.C. "We moved heaven and Earth to get that conviction," says Dickerson, who is now in private practice in Las Vegas.
Yet the sentence could have been more severe. Prior to sentencing, the prosecutors petitioned the court to designate Perry a "dangerous special offender," calling Perry a "major criminal figure who has caused many persons to suffer, not only financially, but also emotionally and psychologically." That designation would have triggered a longer sentence as well as decreased Perry's chances for an early parole, but U.S. District Judge Howard McKibben declined the prosecutors' request.
The government was unable to document how much Perry collected from his victims, though it cited his $124 million boast to Steffen (made in 1981, three years before the trial) as well as evidence that Perry attempted to launder $40 million while in prison awaiting trial. The loss estimates were academic, however, since the government was never able to locate any assets and distribute them to the victims.
Rev. Duplissey almost lost his church as a result of the scam. Some of those who invested with Perry through Duplissey sued and received a judgment against Duplissey. He says he sold virtually everything he owned, including several apartment buildings and other acreage around Silsbee, to pay as many as he could. "I just scraped and raked and paid back what I could," he says. "It just about destroyed me." Wilkerson, who later served 10 months in prison for bank and wire fraud unrelated to Perry, hired his own team of investigators to find the money, but they also came up empty. Perry "did not have one thing in his name except an old Triumph motorcycle," Wilkerson says.
Before Perry reported to prison, Dickerson, the prosecutor, wrote to the Bureau of Prisons warning that Perry was an accomplished con man with an uncanny ability to secure special privileges in jail by building relationships with guards and other prisoners. Dickerson says it is the only time he wrote such a letter about an inmate during five years as a federal prosecutor.
Resentful over the letter, the conviction, or both, Perry allegedly sought retribution. Dickerson says he received multiple calls from federal inmates claiming that Perry was seeking to hire a hit man to kill him. The FBI investigated the claims but Perry was never prosecuted. Dickerson's other warnings apparently went unheeded as well. Over the next 12 years, as Perry kicked around the federal prison system, he fulfilled Dickerson's prediction by injecting himself into a number of ongoing criminal investigations. He no doubt believed his efforts would lead to special treatment or perhaps even an early release from jail. He was right.
The first documented instance was in 1990 when Las Vegas brothers Timothy and Chris Connors were accused of stealing drugs from Kelly Vanlandingham, shooting him nine times and dumping his body in the desert. Perry shared a cell with at least one of the brothers and somehow managed to get them to write a detailed confession, which Perry then took to the FBI. The FBI took the information to the Clark County District Attorney's office, which prosecuted the case. It's not clear whether Perry worked as an informant in any cases prior to the Connors case, or why he approached the FBI instead of the county prosecutors. FBI officials declined to comment on Perry's work as an informant in the Connors case or others.
In court documents related to the Connors case, Clark County prosecutors attempted to distance themselves from Perry because the alleged confession only clouded an already solid case. The defense, though, argued that Perry was working as an agent of the district attorney's office, and therefore violated the brothers' civil rights. The dispute delayed the trial for several months, but the brothers were eventually convicted and given life sentences. "We didn't tell him to go in there and get statements," says Abby Silver, who prosecuted the Connors brothers and still works in the district attorney's office. Perry "was hoping to help himself."
Perry served 12 years before he was released on parole in 1997. The transcripts of parole commission hearings, during which the commission hears testimony about whether a prisoner should be released, are not open to the public without the prisoner's consent. Attempts to get that consent and further comment from Perry for this story were unsuccessful.
Dickerson says the parole board called him each time Perry came up for parole and he always advised against it. However, Dickerson was not called in 1997, when Perry was finally released. It's not clear if the FBI interceded on Perry's behalf, but Perry testified in court in July 2001 that he had been working as an FBI informant for about four years.
Within months of his release Perry was back in Las Vegas and running another scam, this time with a uniquely Las Vegas angle. He told potential investors he was loaning money to casino high rollers when they exceeded their credit limits-"chase money," he called it, since the high rollers used the loans to chase their losses. The pit bosses, Perry said, referred business to him, and these loans paid extraordinarily high interest rates. Perry told some investors that he started his enterprise with a $2 million wrongful death settlement stemming from his wife's death, but needed more capital to fund the loans. (Barry Levinson, Perry's civil attorney, says Perry's ex-wife, who divorced him while he was in prison, is alive and well.)
Perry met his investors at various locations, mostly on the west side of town, where he received additional cash and made scheduled payments. Retired oil executive Robert Haverkamp met Perry in early 1998 at Charlie's Lakeside, a restaurant and bar in The Lakes, and eventually gave Perry $130,000. Perry said he would pay $300 each week for every $10,000 investment for a period of three months. At the end of three months, Haverkamp would get the principal back as well. Haverkamp was introduced to Perry by another investor, and he says he knows of other local residents who were investing large sums of money with Perry during that time.
As usual, Perry paid quickly at first, sliding hundred-dollar bills to Haverkamp under the bar at Charlie's, but then began missing payments and inventing excuses. Haverkamp tired of the ruse and confronted Perry. "Relax, don't get so excited," Perry replied. "You're OK, you're family's OK."
Haverkamp says he interpreted that as a threat against his family. Wary of Perry's insinuations about his association with organized crime, Haverkamp backed off for a time but later asked to accompany Perry to the casinos to make the loans. Perry refused.
On August 26, 1998, Haverkamp received his last payment from Perry, who disappeared shortly thereafter. He was sent to prison for violating his parole when the government discovered he was up to his old tricks. Once again, his investors were left holding the bag. It's not clear how much Perry took in during this year-long interlude between jail terms or whether any of that money is included in the $23 million confiscated by the police three years later.
While serving his time for his parole violation, he began a correspondence with the 12-year-old daughter of a friend, according to the indictment filed against him. He sent her a cardboard cutout of his penis and convinced the girl to take pictures of herself with sex toys and with a large white dog. The indictment says a friend of Perry's picked up the pictures from the girl and took them to Perry at the jail.
Those pictures, found in a bedroom with a sign above the door reading "Frankie's Room," formed the basis for the child pornography charges against Perry. About this time, Perry again approached the FBI about working as an informant, this time on a bank robbery case. The file is not clear on whether Perry actually worked on that case, but he was released in November 1999, after serving 364 days.
Then, in March 2000, the FBI enlisted Perry to get close to Jerald Burgess. The FBI suspected Burgess in the 1978 kidnapping and murder of 6-year-old Cary Sayegh, described by the Las Vegas Sun as "the most infamous child kidnapping case in Las Vegas history." Sayegh was abducted from his school during lunch and his body was never found. Burgess was acquitted in 1982 of charges related to the kidnapping but the FBI still considered him a strong suspect.
In a recent interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, during which he refused to discuss the pending charges against him, Perry claimed that for more than six months in 2000 he was able "to penetrate into Jerald Burgess's life deeper than anyone else could have under the circumstances."
Perry befriended Burgess and at one point asked him to help dispose of a body so it would never be found. Burgess told Perry how to seal bodies in acid-filled steel drums that would dissolve all body parts and DNA. "They didn't find the little bastard, did they?" Burgess allegedly boasted to Perry. Perry told the paper he was motivated to help with the case because of his own experience as a kidnapping victim, an apparent reference to Wilkerson's efforts to collect his money. "I don't think that will ever go away," Perry said. "I wouldn't want anybody to go through what I did."
Burgess was arrested in October 2000 on weapons charges unrelated to the kidnapping case. But Perry was also arrested shortly before Burgess went to trial, and the government opted not to put him on the stand because of obvious credibility problems. Burgess's attorney, Robert Glennen, called Perry as a defense witness, and Perry testified that he was paid more than $10,000 by the FBI during his tenure as an informant. Burgess was convicted and is expected to be sentenced to about 10 years in prison.
Glennen says the government essentially enabled Perry to further his scam. "The FBI gave him a pass to steal millions of dollars from our finest citizens so they could clear a case that was 20 years old," Glennen says.
The evidence suggests that Glennen may have a point. During the entire time he worked as an informant, Perry was working his "high rollers" scam once again; on a tape Glennen introduced into evidence during Burgess's trial, Perry is heard trying to convince an unidentified subject to make an investment. Glennen says the tape should have served as a red flag to the FBI that Perry was ripping off local residents once again. If agents caught on, they didn't do anything to stop him, and he ripped off dozens, perhaps hundreds, more victims in the months that followed.
Two of those citizens were Steve and Sarah Henry (not the couple's real names). They were introduced to Perry in August 2000 by a business associate who was already investing with Perry. The couple helped Perry secure office space in their building on Jones Boulevard between Charleston and Oakey, and soon invested themselves. "The Program," as the investors dubbed it, called for 20 percent monthly payments to be paid weekly on a minimum investment of $10,000. So a $10,000 investment received weekly payments of $500 for three months, after which Perry returned the initial $10,000 as well.
He also gave new investors a document that he said entitled them to $600 worth of comps at casinos where Perry made his loans, including Aladdin, Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay and the Venetian (this perk varied from week to week, according to the Henry's). The document, though it looked as though it was produced on a home computer, contained just enough details to convince investors it was authentic. For example, it included a disclaimer at the bottom that "gratuity, taxes, room service fees and/or movies will not be included." The investors were instructed to use their comps on meals or shows and submit receipts to Perry for reimbursement. (Police say there is no evidence Perry actually made loans or had credits at any of the casinos.)
To encourage the viral growth of The Program, Perry paid a 10 percent commission when current investors brought in new blood. And, as he had with Wilkerson almost 20 years before, Perry executed the soft sell to perfection. He promised that he would never call investors for more money and even made investors believe he was doing them a favor by allowing them into The Program. "He leaned so far back you'd think he was going to fall out of his chair to get away from your money," Steve Henry says.
With the stock market in steady decline throughout late 2000 and early 2001, Perry's scheme was more attractive than ever. Some investors took cash advances from their credit cards-paying 20 percent annually on the advances sounded pretty good with the promise of 20 percent monthly returns. Others gave Perry the titles to their cars. The victims included all demographics-white, black, upper-class, lower-class, old and young-though Perry liked to tell people that he turned away sizable amounts of drug money.
According to a copy of an e-mail left behind at Perry's office, Tony Fredianelli, guitarist for the rock group Third Eye Blind, was among the investors. In the e-mail, Fredianelli thanked Perry for his investment prowess and suggested he planned to bring other friends into The Program. Fredianelli did not respond to requests for an interview about his involvement with Perry, but prosecutors confirmed that his name is on the list of victims seeking restitution.
Perry worked hard, usually arriving before any other tenants in the office park and staying until they had all left, and the business grew exponentially. By July, the Henrys say, more than 15 people per day were joining. "There were people coming in all the time. It was unbelievable," Steve Henry says. It was not unusual to see a fresh crop waiting in the lobby with duffel bags and grocery sacks full of cash.
Each Friday, investors lined up at the unmarked office to collect their weekly interest payments. The only complaint from the giddy investors during those months was that they had to wait in line as long as an hour in order to get in to see Perry.
One Friday afternoon, after spending the day paying off a steady stream of his investors, Perry showed Henry a stack of $100 bills so thick he could barely get his hand around it. "That's what I made this week," Perry told him. Perry said it was $90,000.
The couple befriended Perry, inviting him over for dinner on several occasions. In addition, Perry once gave Sarah Henry a $100 bill to place under the pillow of her son, who had just lost his first tooth. Another night he brought the boy a motor scooter that Perry valued at $500. Other than those occasional extravagances, the couple says they knew Perry not as a flashy high roller, but as an unassuming, lonely man whose favorite restaurant was the Olive Garden. During their friendship, Perry dispelled all of the doubts they once harbored about him. Partial to wearing barongs-the Filipino shirts favored by Ferdinand Marcos-Perry claimed he once owned a barong factory in the Philippines. Steve Henry formerly lived in the Philippines and says Perry knew details of the country that indicated he did in fact live there for at least a short time. "He had an answer for everything," Steve Henry says.
Metro began investigating Perry in April when a prospective investor asked a police officer whether the deal seemed legitimate. The district attorney's office contacted the FBI, which agreed it would be best for Metro to head the investigation.
Metro placed Perry under surveillance, but he soon caught wind of it by monitoring the police scanners he kept at his home and office. He called the FBI to ask why he was under surveillance, and the FBI on May 21 alerted the police that Perry was on to them. Metro changed its tactics, Laurent says, but continued the investigation.
Why would Perry call the FBI in 2001, well after his role in the Burgess case was complete? Well, it seems Perry was again working as an informant, this time with the goal of infiltrating a child pornography ring reportedly operating in the Valley. Under his deal with the government, Perry was allowed to obtain child pornography on the condition that he turn it over to the authorities as soon as possible. (His defense on the child porn charges is essentially that he obtained the pictures in his role as an informant. The FBI says the pictures fall outside of the deal, in part because he never turned them over to the government. Besides, the pictures found in his bedroom were taken more than a year before.)
Though the FBI is not talking about whether it regrets its relationship with Perry, Laurent notes, with some understatement, "They may have been duped into believing he was more trustworthy that he was."
Regardless, on July 17 the great charade came to an end. Two undercover police officers managed to convince an investor, who was not aware of their true identities, to make an introduction to Perry. The officers, posing as a couple, each invested $10,000 with Perry and the investor was paid a $2,000 commission. Minutes later, officers stormed the office and arrested Perry. Before moving to Perry's homes, the officers found more than $3 million in cash at the office. At his two homes, they found the suitcases and tubs full of cash, Laurent says, and "bags and bags" of car keys and titles.
Laurent says there were indications that Perry was planning to leave town before his arrest, though he declined to give specifics. The Henrys say the cleaning man at the office told them that he saw Perry at the office the Sunday night before he was arrested changing the license plates on a van and loading boxes into the van. Thus far, more than 1,000 investors from as far away as Australia have come forward and placed claims totaling more than $46 million. It is likely that those numbers are significantly lower than the reality since many investors are embarrassed and others fear prosecution for tax evasion. Laurent says the office plans to distribute the seized money to those investors who can document their losses, though equitable distribution will no doubt be a nightmare. Duplissey and Wilkerson, who lost sizable sums with Perry more than 20 years ago, say they hope to share in the distribution as well.
In November, Perry's civil attorney, Levinson, filed a class-action lawsuit against Metro seeking the return of the $22 million seized during Perry's arrest. Levinson, who represents six victims so far, says he only wants to distribute the money to the investors and is hoping others will join the action. But as of early December, a judge was considering a request, supported by the district attorney's office, to consolidate all of the investors' claims into a single action handled by a different local law firm. The money likely will be placed into an interest-bearing account until it can be distributed.
Among the mysteries surrounding Perry: Where did all the money go? While he apparently spent lavishly before his first stint in prison, he lived relatively modestly thereafter. He owned two houses in middle-class Las Vegas subdivisions, drove a Lincoln Continental and wore a Rolex-but that is not the lifestyle of a man who has $23 million in cash at his disposal. Maybe, like before, he dropped large sums of money in pursuit of women. Maybe he was hoarding his cash for a life of luxury in a forthcoming retirement. Or maybe there is another explanation. He once told one of his victims: "I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't gamble. Making money is my hobby."
Maybe, for once, he was telling the truth. He simply didn't know how to do anything else. More than a few people lost huge sums of money to Perry, including a Utah couple that met Perry on a plane and eventually contributed as much as $4 million, but the vast majority of his victims came up with $10,000 here and $20,000 there to pursue a once-in-a-lifetime chance.
The Henrys invested more than $60,000 in The Program, but held notes for more than $400,000 at the time of Perry's arrest because they had pooled their investments with several other people. Some of that money had been set aside for Mrs. Henry's son's college education. Nevertheless, they each said they have a hard time believing that Perry was able to perpetrate such a complete fraud on them. They are not totally convinced the investments were illegitimate, and speculate that Perry could have in fact been working as a front for the Mafia.
They have only talked to him once since the arrest. He called from jail, and suggested they contact Levinson to join his suit against Metro, an opportunity they declined. Perry did not address the fraud allegations during the conversation, but said of the porn charges: "Everyone doesn't know the full story yet."
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