Billions of dollars. Chinese money laundering. The Bin Laden Group. A Moroccan prince. Upper echelon Asian government officials. Ghost accounts. A Canadian movie producer. Fake money transfers. A Mongolian heroin kingpin. Nigerian patsies. U.K. shell companies. A fake television show. A benevolent author. And one half-wit Australian straw-woman named Sophie Zammit.
Sounds like the makings of a great book, right? Well, unfortunately it was all real.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I was recently sucked into an international fraud that literally spanned the whole globe. Honestly, this will read like fiction and be hard to believe. But it is, in fact, all true. At the end of this piece is a link to a website filled with screenshots, voicemails, and messages to prove it all. I’m telling you, it was one of the most bizarre and frustrating experiences of my life!
I’ll just start at the very beginning. So, back in February a British gentleman referred me to a woman named SOPHIE ANASTASIA ZAMMIT CASTAN (I just recently learned that she also goes by the name Rachel or Racheal Zammit). She was supposedly producing a new reality TV show called “Auto Rehab,” which was based on working with troubled teens in a custom car garage setting. She loved my backstory, how I had come straight out of prison and achieved so much in such a short time. She saw I had a large social media following, that I was comfortable in front of a camera, and had a “charisma” that she felt would resonate well with the kids. After some discussion, she asked me to be the host of the show, as well as Executive Produce it. Now, I am constantly being told I need a reality show, because anyone who follows me on social media knows that I live a crazy life, always embarking on various adventures. And I had already been approached about hosting various reality TV shows, but as an author and the CEO of “OUR THING” Apparel I really didn’t have the time. Yet this premise resonated with me. I know part of my life mission is to give back and try to help people not make the same mistakes I did, mistakes that landed me in prison for 13 years. So, I told the woman I would be willing to put several projects on hold, including “Mob Con,” a large Las Vegas event I’ll be hosting next year with fellow author, Scott M. Burnstein, because I believed it was a good cause. And really, I knew it could be great PR for my books and brand.
So, a contact was drawn up, detailing that I would receive a budget of $140,000 to produce a pilot series that would essentially become a sizzle reel to pitch all the major networks. On top of that, the contract outlined that I would be compensated for all out-of-pocket expenses, such as food, travel, accommodations, and general admin/office costs during production. The contract was eventually revised under the guidance of my agent, giving me 100% rights to the intellectual property so she could pitch the show in multiple formats. Sophie Zammit agreed to my terms and signed the contract via “Docusign,” a form of digital signature that is time stamped and traceable.
She then assured me the money would be coming within the next few days, but it never came. She had various excuses that seemed feasible, so I thought nothing of it. She came across as a professional, even though there were a few red flags early-on. One was that her spelling and poor use of grammar was quite adolescent, but being a writer this is something I’m always critical of, so I glossed over it. Nevertheless, I went to work under the presumption that the money would eventually arrive. There is a lot of pre-production minutiae that goes into making one of these pilots, so over the next several weeks I began making calls and laying the ground work. I secured a garage in Detroit where we would be filming. I secured a production company to do the actually filming. I contacted the local courts and probation departments, setting up meetings to discuss getting the kids out of jails and juvie. Now keep in mind, this was all on my own dime, all the travel and hotels, etc., since I live 300 miles from Detroit. I even turned down events like the NYC Book Con so I could prepare for filming and get the foundation laid for this show.
But still the money never showed. The excuses from this woman soon became bizarre. At one point, she said she received a $2 million loan from the “owner of Gatorade,” which we later learned was actually a failed company called “GREATERade” that had been sued out of existence by the real Gatorade company. She also told me that she was dealing with the Prince of Morocco, who was going to give millions of dollars to her charities. Even more unbelievable was that she told me on several occasions that she was also receiving money from the “Bin Laden group.” When I pointed out that it was a terrorist cell, she assured me that they were in fact a very philanthropic group who wanted to help her with her charities. It was at this point I began to think, “This woman is either a pathological liar or just a naïve moron!” I’d later learn she’s both.
Nevertheless, I was committed so I just slowly inched along, doing whatever work I could on the project until I received the money to begin production. But, of course, no money ever came. Eventually, she went to China to supposedly facilitate some kind of enormous financial business transactions between a number of Chinese billionaires and the various shell companies she had set up in the UK and Australia. Her partner on these deals was a character named “Tony Tan,” a supposed Mongolian millionaire with connections to a number of top Chinese government officials and billionaires. But when we looked into him, he had no internet footprint and his website would not open. Also, the name of his company was HEROINvestments. The red flags began to fly.
Things just got more and more bizarre. Early on, I mentioned to her that I was looking to take on partners in my apparel company so I could propel the brand to the next level. She came right out and said she would love to buy 25% of my company for $500,000. She showed me a bank statement with nearly $6 million in it, so I was super excited at thought of finally building the brand to its full potential by using the investment money for marketing and hiring field reps. She actually provided proof to me that she had millions.
After about three weeks in China, she finally transferred the money, and even sent me a screenshot of the bank transfer for $640,000.
My wife decided that with a half-million in the bank, she no longer needed to work at her six-figure executive sales job. She had already been contemplating quitting her job to work full-time for me anyway. This just gave her a good reason to jump ship. But she did get Sophie on the phone to confirm that the money was actually sent. Because quitting her job and losing our health insurance was extremely risky, if for some reason that never showed up. Sophie chuckled and assured her, “It’s all good, no worries. The money will be there in a couple days.” But it wasn’t all good. No money came. A SWIFT transfer takes only 2-5 days, so after a week we began pestering her. I mean, my wife had quit her job to help me work on the project. Sophie claimed the money was in America, but that the U.S. government (or rather, the Central Bank in New York) was holding the funds in order to verify where it came from and who was receiving it. She asked us for a legal document breaking down exactly what the money was for. She also asked for a copy of my ID and the bank account number, which we thought was odd since she already had it for the bank transfer. She tried to explain that the government can hold it for up to 10 days, but all our research showed no more than five days.
Eventually, she, in a panicked voice, admitted that there was an overdraft “situation” so the transfer didn’t go through. But we knew THAT was pure bullshit, since a SWIFT transfer cannot be initiated unless the funds are actually available. When I called her on this, she tried to cover up by saying that she had some kind credit line with China, and the money was routed through her bank in Melbourne, Australia. It was pure BS and made no sense. We would later learn that her partner, the mysterious “Tony Tan,” cancelled the transfer without her even knowing it—he had his own plans for that money, and it didn’t involve me getting a dime of it. Read on and you will learn how I believe Sophie herself was actually scammed by him out of more than $5 million dollars.
Now we were fully committed, even though we knew much of what this woman was telling us was pure bullshit. Several weeks later, she initiated yet another SWIFT wire transfer. It looked totally legit because it showed the conversion from Australian dollars and everything. She even had Tony Tan call me at one point from China to appease me. But the call quickly disconnected so I called him back, a call I was billed $48 for. I could barely understand his English, but he insisted that SWIFT transfers can take 10 days, and that the money would be there. When I began telling him that the SWIFT website says it NEVER takes more than 5, he pulled the old “You’re breaking up…. what? Can’t hear… breaking up…” routine and then he hung up.
After 10 days, I became pretty irate. Not a single dollar arrived. And I’d already contracted a show runner, a producer, and put considerable time into this project. All she gave me in return were excuses, some of which were so stupid that it would have been funny had I not been the butt of the joke.
I knew by this point this Tan dude was a scam, and that he was working this halfwit moron Sophie. It was obvious that she was not too bright, and that he had her on the hook. But when I told her that in my opinion he was conning her, she defended him and insisted that he was a friend, that he would “never do that.” Uh, huh. She was so gullible and stupid that she actually left him with her computer that had all of her bank account info and passwords while she went to the U.K. on family business for a few days. When she returned, all of her accounts had been drained. Go figure.
So, let me give you a quick break down of what I believe happened in China:
This Tony Tan guy convinced her that he had $30 million in a Mongolian bank that been seized by the new government regime because he owed back taxes—to the tune of like $7 million dollars. She went there to verify he had the funds. One of his people in the bank, who was clearly in on the scam, created a fake account showing he had $30 million. He showed Sophie this and she bought it. The account was surely deleted the second they left. Tan than had Sophie set up a number of fake shell companies in Australia and the U.K. The reason for this is because the U.K. and Australia are no longer letting the Chinese buy up all their property and businesses. So, they need front men (or women) to create shell companies, and then the Asians “loan” these front-people money to start businesses and/or buy property. They transfer the money as a loan, because there is no tax paid on a loan. But in reality, the Chinese are on the corporate articles as the primary owners, if not SOLE owners, of these companies. It’s pretty much a giant money laundering scheme, in which the Chinese use Western patsies as straw-men to move billions out of China.
Here is where it gets interesting. Tan organized for Sophie to receive a $5 million loan from the Chinese Central Bank, money to be used to set up more fake shell companies. But Tan had a plan. He convinced her to “loan” him the money to pay his back taxes, which would free up his frozen $30 million. He would then pay her back $7 million. Gullible, stupid, and greedy, she gave him the money. But, of course, Tan then claimed the government wouldn’t release the money. He told her the government said he owed several million more before they would release his funds. So, he began arranging for her dumb-ass to borrow more money to loan him, since at this point she was committed, with her $5 million already gone. She began scrambling to find investors for “projects,” so she could raise what Tan needed to unfreeze his money and pay her back. She was too stupid to realize she was being scammed herself. When I told her that she was never going to see her money again, that Tan had scammed her, she replied, “Oh, no, we have a contract. He has to pay me.” I just laughed. Again, too stupid to realize she was stupid. How is an Australian going to sue a fictitious character from Mongolia, or China, or Korea…? I don’t think anyone really knows where the dude is from.
Sophie was under the impression that she was to receive a commission for facilitating those enormous business deals for the Chinese businessmen. The percentage changed from conversation to conversation. She told me at one point that she was to receive 20% of $10 billion, to which I jokingly said, “You’re gonna have more money than Oprah.” See the screenshot of our text below.
If she ever did receive any money, Tony Tan scammed it from her. Over the next several weeks, I continued to ask her where all her millions and billions were. She replied, “Tony is holding it for me. I can’t transfer it to my offshore accounts in Cyprus because the government will freeze it and investigate where it came from.” I chuckled and replied, “Huh, that what Tony told you?” She was truly one of the dumbest human beings I have ever encountered. And having spent 13 years in prison, I have encountered more than most. Again, I am embarrassed that I ever fell for her BS.
She continued to string me along each day with lies and half-truths, claiming the funds were being sent, or that she was just “finishing up,” or that the people they were working with (at this point it was the Russians, LOL) were incompetent, or that the money was en route. By this point I was 99% sure it was all lies. Some of the things she told me were utterly hilarious. Screenshots and recordings of our conversations are at the link below. Take look and have a good laugh. Every day was a new excuse, a new lie, but I had no choice but to ride out her tidal wave of bullshit. I wasn’t hurting or broke. It wasn’t like I was reliant on her money. Would it have helped? Sure. But she really didn’t damage my life at all. Just wasted my time and some of my own money. Which of course was irritating. But the thing that frustrated me most was that I really thought the show would be a great hit, and make an impact on some troubled kids. I was excited about helping them learn how to not make the bad choices that landed me in prison for 13 years.
Toward the end, she went to Toronto, Canada, to meet a Polish businessman named “Harry.” Supposedly Harry was going to bail her out. She claimed Harry had $36 million in gold that he earned as an engineer for an oil company in Dubai. She was going to convert it to cash for him and earn a commission. But a quick look at his Facebook profile showed that he had only ever been a Human Resources director for a various oil companies… but other than Facebook, there was nothing whatsoever about this “Harry” guy online. Again, something wasn’t right. He also had no internet footprint, and his Facebook page had a few holes and didn’t appear to be legit. Nevertheless, Sophie flew to Toronto to meet him, and claimed that she received $36 million in cash which was delivered via the trunk of a cab. When I told her that I had counted millions of dollars before, and that $36 million would barely fit in the back of an armored truck, she replied, “Oh, no, it was all in $100’s and $50’s.” I just rolled my eyes. Again, she was too stupid to realize how stupid she sounded. $30 million dollars would take up ten square feet of space and weigh exactly 720 pounds.
Sophie was convinced that this Harry character was going to invest $10 million for some kind of eco resort in Mongolia. Of course, Tony Tan had arranged it all. She was trying to trick this Harry into giving her $10 million, so Tony Tan could unfreeze his $30 million. Just more bullshit. I knew Tan was working another scam. He had Sophie convinced that the resort was to be built on land that was in fact “the sacred birth place of Genghis Kahn.” All I could do was laugh.
She also told me “Harry” flew from his oil rig in the Persian Gulf to meet her in Toronto, and from there they were supposed to meet me in Detroit so we could discuss Harry’s investment of $30 million toward making my book into a movie. But they never showed. Guess what? I messaged him on messenger and told him it was urgent that I talked to him. He called me back within a few minutes. First, he was nowhere near Toronto. Second, he definitely was NOT Polish. He was most definitely from Africa, based on his accent. I was pretty sure Nigeria. Third, he had no idea that Sophie had been hustled by Tony Tan. When I told him what had transpired, he replied, “I thought it was weird that they asked me to send them money before I even saw the project… She told me something about how they were running out of time…” I warned him to NOT do business with Tan and Sophie. I guaranteed him that Tan’s friends in the Mongolian government would end up seizing the property and his investment would be gone forever. What happened after this I don’t know. I cut ties with her a few days later.
When it appeared that Harry’s money was falling through, Sophie then told me some guy named Charles was lending her $1 million. She even copied me in an email with him. Said that all was set and that she would be wiring me the money “on Monday.” But when I emailed this Charles back privately, explaining that if the money was NOT transferred by Monday, I would dissolve my contract and issue her a cease and desist letter, forbidding her from using my name and likeness for her project going forward. He replied, “If there is any money, I’ll let you know…” That was it, the final straw. She had literally just lied again and told me the money was being sent on Monday, when in fact there was no money to send. Game over.
I ended up sending her a formal cease and desist letter, with a detailed invoice and receipts for the money she was contractually obligated to pay me. In that letter, I told her that if I was not compensated for my time and money by June 26th, 2018 I would go public with her lies and frauds. Her response was to threaten to call my parole officer and tell him that I was trying to extort and blackmail her. The next day I handed my parole officer a huge file, which included my contract with her, and 30 pages of texts from her, many of which she admitted she is contractually obligated to pay. But to be safe, he told me to at least wait one more month until I was off parole, to really go after her. The Michigan Department of Corrections is notorious for locking a parolee up and asking questions later. They could take 9-10 months to exonerate me.
So, I waited until the very day I was off parole to message Sophie that she now had 24 hours to make arrangements to pay me what she owes (I billed her for $50,000) or I would go live with the website below. Her response was almost immediate. She began blasting lies about me on her tiny little Facebook pages, claiming I was blackmailing and extorting her. She even tried to have Google, WIX, and GoDaddy take down the website. They all laughed at her. She tried Facebook. That got her nowhere. She called the sheriff in my county. They also laughed at her. Same with the Michigan State Police. I’m sure they took one look at the website and said, “Lady, you’re lucky we don’t send someone to arrest YOU!” Over the next 24 hours, my fans bombarded her pages with threats of lawsuits and support for me. Hundreds, maybe thousands of people rallied behind me and flooded her pages with some pretty nasty stuff. Everyone knows I am a straight-shooter these days, and I have no reason to extort or blackmail anyone. They all looked at her fraud website and saw her ridiculous stream of lies. The proof was there. So, by morning, my friends and fans forced her to shut down her pages and sent her slimy ass slithering back in her hole. She will never recover. I will make sure of it. And just to cover my own ass, I informed Interpol and the FBI that I was in no way, shape, or form involved in her international scam and money laundering scheme. I provided an in-depth report that included all the financial information she gave me, and they’re currently conducting an investigation into her international crimes.
The moral of the story is that there is a new order of Organized Crime out there. Global Cyber Syndicates that target anyone gullible enough to fall into their web of deceit. I was never directly involved in this particular Syndicate’s scams, but I was indirectly affected because I fell for this idiotic woman’s line of bullshit. I mean, these people are good. She showed me a verified bank statement for $5 million dollars. Twice she sent wire transfers for large sums of money to my bank account, but then cancelled them. It’s a new game these days. Organized Cyber Crime is real. Unfortunately, I let this one get by me. Which means it can happen to anyone. Don’t let it happen to YOU!
Until next time,
Gunner A. Lindbloom
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