Scams and Shams — March 2015

A former accountant to the stars drops his lawsuit against Paul Simon. Plus, a school district accountant pleads guilty to stealing almost $2 million in lunch money.


Accountant stole from Paul Simon, then sued him

Ex-accountant to the stars, Kenneth Starr, 71, is in the midst of serving seven-and-a-half years in a New York federal prison for scamming clients — including celebrities Natalie Portman, Sylvester Stallone, Martin Scorsese and Paul Simon — out of US$30 million between 2008 and 2010. But that didn’t stop Starr’s bankruptcy trustee from taking legal action against Simon late last year, in an attempt to recover US$17,000 in unpaid money management fees from the famed singer-songwriter. The trustee, who is responsible for collecting Starr’s remaining assets to pay off his creditors, dropped the suit three weeks later.


Accountant stole US$1.8 million in school lunch money


Judith Oakes, 50, has pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly US$2 million over an eight-year period from the nutrition services department where she worked. According to security camera footage, she made off with the school’s lunch money by stuffing it into her bra. She was sentenced to five years in jail and is required to repay the US$1,845,137.81 that she stole from 2005 to 2013. "Hopefully this sends a strong message that our public servants will be held accountable for their actions when they decide to abuse the public trust," said the prosecutor.


Award-winning adviser’s £3-million scam

UK financial adviser Alok Dhanda is being jailed for more than five years for conning 41 clients out of £2.9 million (about $5.2 million) by telling them he invested their funds in property in India. (He didn’t.) The 53-year-old from Newcastle was given a regional award in 2006 by New Model Adviser magazine, which at the time described him as "the consummate professional who leaves nothing to chance." In a profile in the April 2006 issue, Dhanda said, "People are like sheep — if there is a quick buck to be made then they will follow. It’s greed and that is the root of all evil."


Fund manager bought US$75 million in stuffies

The former CFO of a Connecticut investment firm, Paul Greenwood, 67, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for scamming clients out  of millions of dollars, which he  used to buy a stake in the New York Islanders hockey team, operate a horse farm and purchase hundreds of antique teddy bears. Greenwood and his partner, Stephen Walsh, who was given a 20-year prison sentence a month earlier, misappropriated US$131 million in investor funds through their WG Trading Co., essentially a Ponzi scheme, from 1996 to 2009. Greenwood, who must forfeit at least US$83.5 million, says he spent more than US$75 million of the ill-gotten funds to buy museum-quality stuffed toys.