From Bavaria with Balls!
By David Glenn Cox
When a group of pensioners in Bavaria lost over three million dollars in their retirement savings at the hands of an investment banker, the senior citizens organized around their 74-year-old leader, Roland K. Mr. K, along with a 61-year-old accomplice, went to the home James Amburn. Amburn, an American-born investment banker, Amburn as it happened was out at the pub and when he returned home Mr. K, and accomplice Willy D, tackled Amburn and then sat on him, wrapping him up in yards of brown sticky tape.
They gagged him and inserted him into a shipping box and then loaded him into the trunk of their Audi. The elderly kidnappers had to first move the box 500 yards through town on a hand truck. The pair were ready, if asked, to say the box contained a marble statue.
After loading Amburn into the trunk the pair drove 300 miles to Roland K’s holiday home on Lake Chiemsee. But along the way Amburn freed himself enough to use a crowbar and began damaging the trunk of the Audi. The elderly pair stopped the car and proceeded to beat the snot out of Amburn for damaging the car, breaking two of his ribs. Sufficiently educated on proper trunk etiquette Amburn needed no further correction along the course of the trip.
Amburn was held in the basement semi-naked and taken out to the garage for interrogations. The relationship between the two had begun in the early 1990s when Amburn began recommending investing in Florida real estate to the pensioner. At first the returns were tremendous so Roland K. gave Amburn more money to invest and started recommending to friends to invest with Amburn. If you are from Bavaria you probably don’t realize that most stories that end with, "And that’s how I lost all my money" started with, "I’m going to make a fortune investing in Florida real estate."
Florida land deals have been separating the wealthy from their wealth since oranges were a new idea. In America if someone wants you to invest in Florida land deals you make a cross with your fingers or wag your garlic necklace at them. But in Bavaria it all sounds very alluring and romantic, Florida, "Miami Vice" reruns, pretty girls cavorting in the sun, giant marlins tugging at the fishing tackle.
Then when the sub-prime crisis hit, Amburn called his customers to explain "Your investment is kaput!" Since 2009 Amburn’s customers have been requesting some or all of their money returned. Apparently Amburn failed to understand the seriousness of his customers' demands or received a poor translation of "Do you know what we do to people who rip us off in Bavaria?"
"I thought they were going to take me out into the woods and shoot me," Amburn told the court.
The defendants offered a different story, that Amburn was their guest staying in a spare room, but the judge in the case wasn’t buying that story. Amburn was allowed smoke breaks in the home’s garden during his captivity. During one such smoke break he jumped over the garden wall in the pouring rain wearing nothing but his tighty whities. Amburn ran down the street shouting, "Help – I've been kidnapped!"
His abductors were right behind in the Audi shouting, "Stop that man, he's a burglar."
It is as Mark Twain advised, "Clothes make the man, naked people have little or no influence in society." To the neighbors in Lake Chiemsee, given a choice of believing their neighbors or a guy in his underpants, the decision was an easy one. They pinned Amburn to the pavement and turned him back over to the over-the-hill gang.
Back in captivity Amburn relented and explained that he needed to contact his Swiss bankers to arrange for funds. Amburn sent a coded message in the fax to call police, and within hours forty police surrounded the house and ended the crime spree of the "pensioner gang."
The trial judge described their actions as a "spectacular case of individuals taking justice into their own hands." That word, spectacular, is one of those words that are descriptive but imprecise. Airliner crashes are spectacular, so are fire works displays, or maybe it was just the translation. The gang received sentences ranging from 18-months suspended to Roland K’s six years in prison. I’m sure he dislikes going to prison but I would wager given the opportunity he would do it all over again.
The press and the government will always say that it was wrong to take the law into their own hands. What topic of discussion do you think is more prevalent in the German investment community today, new regulations or James Amburn? Which do you think will have a greater impact?
Thousands of American pensioners lost everything in the Enron scandal. They did nothing wrong except place their trust in the system. They will spend the rest of their days in poverty while the perpetrators use high-priced attorneys trying to get a new trial. Bernie Madoff pled guilty to shield his wife and sons, and his victims, like the Enron victims, will spend their days scratching along on the wreckage of their retirements.
The reason horse thieves were lynched in the Old West was because taking a man’s horse in the wilderness was tantamount to leaving them for dead. Malcolm X put it this way, "I'm for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it's for or against."