As we learned last week, courtesy of his unsuccessful appeal (In re Frank B., 2013 IL App (2d) 120584-U), Mr. B. was ordered committed to the care of the state Department of Human Services, in part because of his entanglement in the classic 4-1-9 scam. As related in the court's opinion:
Evelyn B., Frank’s wife, testified that Frank was retired and collected Social Security and a pension. They used to own a home, but they lost it to foreclosure. She had no knowledge of or control over their finances. At some point she learned that Frank was making investments with individuals in Nigeria, but he would not give her any information. (At this point, the court noted for the record that Evelyn had filed an emergency petition for guardianship on the morning of the hearing and that the court had continued the petition pending the outcome of the mental health hearing.) Evelyn believed that Frank had made some foolish investments. They did not have any money left, except for a small amount in savings. They currently lived in a condominium owned by her daughter and son-in-law. She was not sure what they were responsible for paying, possibly the taxes, association fees, and utilities. Frank had not paid the utility bills for two or three months. Frank received $1,600 in Social Security and $600 from his pension every month. Evelyn also received Social Security. They received enough money to live on. They used to be able to go out for dinner, but they could no longer afford to “because of the money.”
Frank testified that he was 73 years old. He was a retired insurance salesman with Aetna. According to Frank, he was starting a business with his partner, Steven Brown, whom he had known for 20 years. Over those 20 years, he had invested money, along with his partner, in various projects. He estimated that he had invested about half a million dollars. They had had a hard time and lost money. His partner owed him a lot of money. In addition, Frank testified that he was awarded an estate by a dying Nigerian woman, whom he had never met. He sent $1,500 to someone who was supposedly handling the estate transaction, but it turned out that the person was a thief.
Frank further testified that he lived in a condo owned by his daughter. He had agreed to pay the utilities, condo association fees, and rent. He had not made the payments but he intended to. He testified:We’re supposed to pay rent, yes. I have not paid that stuff but my plan is to pay that stuff. I got this money coming from my partner. I got money coming from this other deal I have been working on. As far as I’m concerned at this point [the money from Nigeria] is still available.
He testified: “The problem I have had since I have been here is I haven’t been able to do any business with anybody. I haven’t talked to anybody on the telephone.” Frank testified that he received $1,666 per month in Social Security and $640 per month from his pension. In the past few months, he spent the money on food and the “business situation.”
On cross-examination, Frank testified that he was trying to do his best with the money. He stated: “I am this close to getting it done, if in fact these guys are not scammers.” When asked whether he intended on paying the association fees and other bills, he stated: “I am going to take care of everything. It’s money—if this is taken care of, I will have plenty of money to take care of everything.” He further stated: “I’ll go back to work if I have to.”
On the premise that Frank's continued belief in the integrity of the Nigerian deal was evidence of delusional psychosis, the circuit court ordered, and the appellate court upheld, involuntary commitment. (The court notes, in the one bright spot, that he was committed for thirty days and released in eighteen.)
I'm not sure there is any cute comment to be made about this. Lest anyone should think that the 4-1-9 scam is not a big deal, here we have a story of a man who has been utterly ruined, pulled in by a pair of cons; and I cannot help but think that he lost not only his livelihood but also his mind and, for eighteen days at least, his freedom to them.