How to Hide $400 Million

“A few weeks after she realized her husband was finally leaving her, Sarah Pursglove flew down to the Bahamas to figure out how much money he really had.”

So begins an excellent article by Nicholas Confessore in the Nov. 30, 2016, edition of The New York Times Magazine. It dives deep into one example of how things work inside “a worldwide financial system catering exclusively to the very wealthy.”

“In recent decades,” Confessore writes, “this system has become astonishingly effective at ‘offshoring’ wealth — detaching assets, through complex layers of ownership and legal planning, from their actual owners, often by hiding them in another country. Created by lawyers, accountants and private bankers and operating out of a global archipelago of European principalities, former British colonies and Asian city-states, the system has one main purpose: to make the richest people in the world appear to own as little as possible.”

Pursglove’s husband was Robert Oesterlund, an entrepreneur of sorts whose companies included a direct-mail firm called Credit Key Express, which promised credit cards to people with bad credit, a series of Columbia House-style online membership clubs, and a company which sold banner ads and software, including ‘toolbars’ that promised to clean viruses off your computer or free up space on your hard drive.

According to the article, he worked very, very hard to hide his true net worth.

Read the full article here: How to Hide $400 Million

Cardboard Crimes at The Sirens of Suspense

Ca$h ’n Gun$In addition to writing crime fiction, I play board games. A lot of board games.

Most of us are familiar with Clue (first published in 1949), but crime-themed games have come a long way over the past seven decades.

The Sirens of Suspense invited me to write about some of my favorite crime-themed games, and I jumped at the opportunity.

Take a look at my list and let me know what you think!

Black Hood #10 – Available May 4

The Black Hood #10Issue #10 of THE BLACK HOOD, Duane Swierczynski’s tremendous comic book about a cop addicted to painkillers who’s trying (in his own twisted way) to the streets of Philadelphia safe, will be available tomorrow, May 4.

Greg Scott’s art, Kelly Fitzpatrick’s coloring, and Rachel Deering’s lettering are perfect for the gritty story that Duane’s telling in THE BLACK HOOD.

If you still need to be convinced, a preview of issue #10 is available at Comic Book Resources.

This issue also includes an essay I wrote about a child who is best known, tragically, as the Boy in the Box. His remains were found in Philadelphia in February 1957 and he’s never been identified.

This is my sixth essay for THE BLACK HOOD, and it’s probably the one I’m most proud of. Even if you already know something about the Boy in the Box, I think you’ll learn a few new details. I read many of the original newspaper articles written in 1957 immediately after the body was found. In those early days, there was a lot of optimism that the boy would be identified and his killer(s) brought to justice.

Many thanks to Duane and editor Alex Segura for including my essay. The main cover is above right; the variant cover is below.

The Black Hood #10 Variant

Pennsylvania’s Last Hanging in Black Hood #9

Black Hood #9 EssayIssue #9 of THE BLACK HOOD is out now.

Writer Duane Swierczynski‘s excellent crime story continues to gain steam and new artist Greg Scott is outstanding.

And tucked neatly into the back of the issue is a non-fiction essay I wrote about the last prisoner to be executed by hanging in Pennsylvania.

This is my fifth essay for THE BLACK HOOD, and it’s always an honor to have my work included in the pages of such a great comic. Huge thanks to Duane and editor Alex Segura for including me.

THE BLACK HOOD is published by Dark Circle Comics.

Black Hood #9

Black Hood #9 Variant

The Black Hood #7 – Out on 11/25

The Black Hood #7Issue #7 of THE BLACK HOOD will be available one week from today — on Wednesday, Nov. 25 — and by my estimation this is the best issue of what’s already a great series.

This issue begins a new story arc (so it’s a great time to start reading even if you haven’t been following the series from the start), and writer Duane Swierczynski has crafted a terrific plot. I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

He also nails the complex, emotional relationship between Greg Hettinger (the police officer who is also the vigilante known as The Black Hood) and his speech therapist, Jessie Dupree. And Greg’s self-doubt… and everything else.

The art by Michael Gaydos is amazing, of course, and I love the special Philly touches sprinkled throughout. Colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick is likewise outstanding.

Finally, I’m excited to once again have a non-fiction piece in the back of The Black Hood. This one’s about H.H. Holmes, often referred to as America’s first serial killer. He killed dozens of people in Chicago, just one in Philadelphia — but that one… well, it’s all right there in the comic.

Issue #7 will be available with two different covers, the main cover (above) and one variant (below). The Black Hood is edited by Alex Segura and published by Dark Circle Comics.

The Black Hood #7 - variant cover

Two Beautiful, Tragic Stories of Death

George Bell's ApartmentTwo newspaper articles about the deaths of people whose deaths would generally go unreported captured my attention recently.

The first profiles George Bell, of New York City. It also provides an in-depth look at the entire process of dying alone in New York City.

The second profiles Phil Schultz, of Philadelphia.

I hope both men have found peace in the afterlife.

The Lonely Death of George Bell
Written by N.R. Kleinfield, with photographs by Josh Haneroct, for The New York Times

They found him in the living room, crumpled up on the mottled carpet. The police did. Sniffing a fetid odor, a neighbor had called 911. The apartment was in north-central Queens, in an unassertive building on 79th Street in Jackson Heights.

Read the rest of this article, and this behind-the-scenes look at how it came together.

The Man Who Died Upright on a Rittenhouse Square Bench
Written by Matt Gelb for the Philadelphia Inquirer

Phil Schultz died sitting upright on a Rittenhouse Square bench that faced multimillion-dollar homes in the city he had roamed for more than a decade.

A woman found him there about 9:30 a.m. Oct. 14. Three people from St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, including the Rev. Sean Mullen, hurried two blocks up Locust Street after a parishioner recognized Phil’s distinctive white, bushy beard.

Read the rest of this article.

The Black Hood #6 – Out on 10/28

The Black Hood #6Issue #6 of THE BLACK HOOD releases later this month — Oct. 28, 2015, to be precise. And I’m excited to have another essay featured inside.

If you’re not familiar with THE BLACK HOOD, a bit of background: It’s a great crime comic written by Duane Swierczynski and set in Philadelphia. The protagonist, Gregory Hettinger, is a Philly cop who gets addicted to painkillers and lives a secret life as the vigilante known as The Black Hood.

Each issue includes a true-crime essay. In issue #4, Duane and editor Alex Segura published an essay I wrote about political corruption in Philadelphia. In issue #6, I’ll be back in the back of THE BLACK HOOD, this time writing about a bizarre Philadelphia murder ring which operated in the late 1930s and claimed dozens of lives — perhaps more than a hundred.

THE BLACK HOOD #6 also features art by the legendary Howard Chaykin.

It’s never too early to order THE BLACK HOOD (published by Dark Circle Comics) at your local comic shop! Issue #6 will be available with four different covers, the main cover (above) and three variants.

The Black Hood #6 Variant
The Black Hood #6 Variant
The Black Hood #6 Variant

Update on the Missing DA

Ray Gricar, the District Attorney in Centre County, Pennsylvania, disappeared in April 2005. His county-issued laptop computer and hard drive were later found, separately, in the Susquehanna River. But Gricar has never been found. That was true when I first posted about this case in April 2012, and it’s still true today.

On the 10th anniversary of Gricar’s disappearance, has put together an in-depth analysis of the case. I’d say it’s required reading for anyone who likes true crime.

Great Crimes Stories on Planet Money

Planet MoneyI enjoy listening to the podcast produced by the NPR show Planet Money, and they’ve featured three great crime-focused stories in recent weeks. I highly recommend all three.

Cow Noir

On September 9th, BJ Holloway’s life savings were stolen. His 6 cows were taken in the dead of the night from his land in Spencer, Oklahoma. BJ looked everywhere for his stolen cattle. He asked his neighbors. He filed a police report. But out in Oklahoma, when cows are stolen, it’s hard to find the thief. The cows all look alike, and the evidence disappears when they’re turned into steaks.

Listen to Cow Noir:

Chasing The Dread Pirate Roberts

A man who dreamed of setting up a utopian marketplace, a place where you could buy and sell almost anything in secret. The pirate created a market with no contracts, no regulations, and really no government interference. The Dread Pirate believed in total economic freedom, but in order to make his market work, he had to do some very bad things.

Listen to Chasing The Dread Pirate Roberts:

Hello, I’m Calling From La Mafia

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world. Jobs that seem dull and safe in most countries have become incredibly dangerous professions in Honduras. For example: Driving a bus.

Listen to Hello, I’m Calling From La Mafia:

The Murders at the Lake

The magazine Texas Monthly has a knack for publishing extremely well-written crime reporting. In December 2012, I gushed about “The Innocent Man” by Pamela Colloff, a terrifying piece about how bad police work and prosecutors determined to win at any cost can be just as destructive as the most deranged criminal.

Today, thanks to a Facebook post by author Dennis Tafoya, I read “The Murders at the Lake” by Michael Hall. It looks at the 1982 murders of three Waco, Texas, teenagers from five different perspectives: cop, detective, lawyer, journalist and inmate. Highly recommended.