- The art of the Con
Counterfeiting Financial Instruments
Being in the stock markets all of my life, I was
always dreaming of owning all of something so that if someone wanted any of
it, they would have to pay me dearly. I hired a consultant that specialized
in coins to help me corner the market in something. As I was not rich, it had
to be something that was both not expensive and had a limited issuance. We talked
about ancient Greek and Roman Coins but he soon assuaged me from this concept
because, they were always digging up more of the stuff, so no one ever knew
the real coinage figures anyway and at any given point in time, a coin that
was for the moment unique could suddenly become just another one of thousands.
Worst of all, the workmanship on old coins was so lousy that countless forgeries
abounded in that market. Moreover, on the really good coins that were made of
gold or silver people would take a bit out of each coin as it passed through
his hands, defacing the value, but the owner was able to wind up with a small
cache of gold and silver in this manner. His argument was most persuasive.
We talked for a time and finally came up with the concept of
collecting all of the coinage issued by the Canadian Province of Prince Edward
Island before 1920 or something like that. We though that we had the exact figures
on certain mintage dates and wanted to specialize on those. Prince Edward Island
in the early days minted its own coinage before it became part of Canada and
because its population was so small, the issued very few coins.
There was a kind of wire service that operated than in the
numismatic world. You could put bids out for various coins on this service and
if anyone was interested in selling or buying something they would get back
to you. We put out a bid for various coins of Prince Edward Island and before
were able to blink our eyes, I was being offered more of certain years than
existed according to the issuance figures that we had. This meant that I was
going to have to go back to the drawing board once again and perhaps someone
out there is in the market for a large trunk filled with these coins, both real
and unreal, but who knows which is which and then again, no one seems to care
all that much.
Having been flummoxed once again, I was not yet dissuaded because
a new opportunity suddenly presented itself. “How would you like to own 357
square miles in Vera Cruz, Mexico?” my numismatic expert asked me. That certainly
sounded like a nice thing to do “but donâ€™t a lot of people live there?” I asked.
Do I get them and their houses as well?” “He lowered his voice and whispered
to me his most authoritative voice, “You can own them all and everything theyâ€™ve
got.” This indeed sounded like something that we should investigate. I asked
my friend how I would go about owning the land, the buildings, the people the
livestock and everything else that existed there. “Easy” he said and pulled
out a magnificent looking certificate that was aged but still most elegant.
I looked at it carefully and noted that it was a bond. I do
not remember the face amount on the certificate itself but it represented a
significant percentage of the total issuance that had been made. The bond was
written and carried the official logo of the State of New York. The owner of
all of that land in Vera Cruz had obviously come up to New York in need of money
and had pledged all of that property in exchange for a loan of a few million
dollars. Apparently, the banks were unwilling to lend on land in Mexico, at
least during that period which was the middle of the 19th century.
The United States and Mexico were still fighting over Arizona, New Mexico and
Texas. So this gentlemanâ€™s only option was to float this bond issue and it turned
out to be extremely successful. I was told by my confidant that the issuer had
gone back to Mexico with a bag full of money. My expert was accurate in everything
he said, because the terms of the bond were clearly marked on their face. The
borrower was pledging everything in the “state.”
This was becoming very interesting and I looked the indenture
over even more carefully and noted that it had been signed by Antonio Lopez
De Santa Anna. While that name was a long drink of water, it seemed familiar;
could that have been the very same man that wiped out Jim Bowie and some of
my other favorites at the Alamo in 1836. My expertizer assured me that this
was the very same man. I asked him if he were in control of his senses, how
could this villain who had wiped out our boys and later arrive in New York as
though nothing had happened and walk away with millions?
My friend who had obviously done quite a bit of
research on the subject informed me that Santa Anna who had been Mexican President
no less then 11-times and when he was not running the country, he was out selling
his services to the highest bidder. Unbelievably, my friend informed me, that
Mexico was not interested in ceding Texas to the United States in spite of the
fact that the people that were living there wanted no part of that country.
The matter was becoming a thorn in the side of both countries; he was authorized
by President Polk to represent the United States with their dealings with Mexico.
After that time and during his other bouts with that countryâ€™s presidency, he
would often visit the United States and in spite of the fact that he could never
be trusted, he was always bringing his deals to brokers in New York City.
I took another look at the certificate and thought
how nice it would look in a frame. In the meantime, I would contact my attorneyâ€™s
and stake my claim to the percentage I owned of Vera Cruz. What a surprise
that these folks were going to get when I marched in with a platoon of lawyers
and laid claim to my land. I started to buy intricate maps of the area and soon
became an expert on everything Vera Cruz. However, I should have studied the
life and times of General Santa Anna a tad more carefully. My attorneys eventually
informed me that in spite of the fact that the bond had indeed been issued in
good faith, and moreover, the titles to the land in Vera Cruz had been assigned
to the bond ownerâ€™s trustee in good fashion, there several problems with my
claim on the land.
The first and foremost was that the statute of limitations
had long ago come and gone. After 150-years, it is difficult too enforce any
claims of this nature even with a loaded gun. Moreover, there was a law in Mexico
that was similar to some of those in the United States. It indicated that if
a pheasant lived on his property for a certain number of years without a claim
being made against his encroachment, the property would escheat to the person
then in control of the property. They informed me that I was about 140 years
to late on that count. Lastly, they pointed out that Santa Anna was not a nice
guy and he had become president of Mexico once again after financing his land.
Once in office he officially rescinded the assignment under Mexican Law. Moreover,
he and Mexican Presidents that succeeded him in office perpetuated the legal
regulations have since prevented American Citizens from owning any property
in Mexico situated in Vera Cruz and similar areas.
As an example, American Citizens are still not allowed to own
land closer than fifty-miles from an ocean or gulf. It appears that all or most
of Vera Cruz falls into this category. In addition, the regulations regarding
eminent domain in Mexico are much more flexible than in the United States and
the Government can take over land from anyone for literally anything or for
just about any purpose. My legal eagles pointed out that even if I was successful
in my argument that I had become a holder in due course and even if I should
win in court, I could lose the property back in literally seconds under the
rules of eminent domain. Moreover, should that not happen, my property would
immediately escheat to the Government of Mexico anyway because foreign nationals
can only own land if it is held in trust for them by a third party. Under the
indenture, these agreements had not been made because the problem didnâ€™t exist
then. Santa Anna had struck again and all that was left of my dreams of empire
were hanging on the wall.