Avoiding Affinity Fraud: The Las Vegas Mormon Ponzi Scheme

Today, the Washington Post published a story detailing an alleged Ponzi scheme that targeted Mormons. (It’s worth noting that one of the alleged fraudsters—the one who seems to have thought up the scheme—was not Mormon. The rest? Yep. Mormon.) Ultimately, Mormons and others lost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Avoid Blaming the Victims

Before I go any further, I want to make something clear. Because I’ve been on the internet long enough to know that people are already formulating comments painting the victims of this fraud as greedy or as overly naive. Both reactions, while appealing, are wrong. The victims of this Ponzi scheme were, in fact, victims of people committing fraud. Blaming the victim of a crime for their victimhood is psychologically natural. But natural doesn’t mean right, morally or substantively. And blaming crime victims is neither right nor moral.

But also, both accusations miss the mark. Were the victims naive? Maybe. But remember Bernie Madoff? His investors/victims included banks, investment funds, charitable foundations, universities, pension funds, and plenty of other sophisticated people and entities. So dismissing victims as simpletons and naïfs doesn’t work.

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Celebrating BYU’s Dr. Ray Smith

When I was 2 or 3 years old, my grandparents gave me some money for my birthday. My parents took me to a toy store and, they tell me, I disappeared. Ten minutes later I was back with a plastic toy saxophone.

My mom started giving me piano lessons when I was 5 and, eventually, I transitioned to a professional teacher. Then, in fifth grade, I picked up the saxophone. My dad had played briefly when he was a kid and I started on his alto.

I absolutely fell in love with the saxophone. (I still love it, to be honest.) In middle school, I joined the 0 period jazz band, directed by Glenn Miller superfan (and eventual convert to the church) Karl Fitch. (Thanks, Mr. Fitch!) At a jazz band concert I heard a classmate a year ahead of me play a solo on tenor and I became a tenor sax player.

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