Fraudsters Shadow

The Story Behind The Story...

Writer and journalist Danny Casolaro was found dead in Room 517 of the Sheraton Hotel in Martinsburg, West Virginia, at the time of his death, he was investigating a sprawling criminal conspiracy he labelled ‘The Octopus’.

The exact nature and extent of Casolaro’s Octopus, or whether it existed at all has been subject to much debate and speculation since.

Casolaro raised stories on the collapse of the BCCI – a bank which lost $20bn and was accused of hiding the proceeds from crime. Police and intelligence experts nicknamed BCCI the “Bank of Crooks and Criminals International” for its penchant for catering to customers who dealt in arms, drugs, and hot drug cartel money.

Casolaro also investigated and published stories on Iran–Contra, political scandal in the United States that occurred during the second term of the Reagan Administration. Senior administration officials secretly facilitated the sale of arms to the Khomeini government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which was the subject of an arms embargo. The administration hoped to use the proceeds of the arms sale to fund the Contras in Nicaragua. Contras took part in guerrilla warfare inciting mob violence, “neutralizing” civilian leaders and government officials and attacking “soft targets” — including schools, health clinics and cooperatives.

Casolaro’s enemies were numerous and experts in crime and all the dangers that brings.

The Story Behind The Story...

The story of the ‘Casie Nicole’, a boat captained by Billie Joe Neesmith. On the second day of the trip, investigation showed that not only was there a mechanical issue with the craft, but it was taking on a lot of water.

The four crew attempted to bail out the boat’s cabin by hand, but the effort was in vain. The bilge pumps were not operational for some unknown reason and at one point, the boat lost all power. The decision was then made to abandon ship. Billie Jo directed the other three to get into the life raft.

According to the sole survivor – a man named Nathan, the life raft was in poor condition and had a hole in it. The men stayed on the raft until they found a large floating piece of debris from the Casie Nicole that they took refuge on.

Nathan then noticed the upturned hull of the Casie Nicole about three miles away. Against the protests of the other three, Nathan swam out to the hull, a feat which took him almost a full day to complete.

The next morning, he noticed a freighter in the area where he thought his brother and the other two men would have been located. The freighter , travelled in circles and appeared to stop several times. This gave Nathan the impression they were picking something up out of the water. Nathan was found barely clinging to life three days later by th coast guard. The Coast Guard launched an intensive search but no sign of the others was ever found.

Theories about what happened to the missing men are varied. Some say Nathan’s story is suspicious. They feel he was either directly involved or the four were part of a drug trafficking ring, and something went awry. Others think the freighter was involved in the drug trafficking and that crew took the men prisoner or killed them to keep them quiet. The family holds the opinion that the men were taken prisoner by the crew on the freighter and have been held in a foreign country, possibly Cuba.

The fuel for these thoughts is a series of phone calls that the Neesmith’s sister, Oneida, and the Casie Nicole’s owner, Doug Tyson, received in the year following the disappearances. There was a total of 5 calls made to the two of them. The initial calls involved a man, who appeared to only speak Spanish, stating the name and number of the person he was calling. The last call was from a man with a heavy accent who said he was “bringing them home”. The men are still listed ‘missing’ to this day.

The Story Behind The Story...

“On 29th November 1970 at approximately 13:15, while hiking in the foothills of Mount Ulrikens north face, Norway, in an area known as Isdalen valley, a university professor and his two young daughters came across the partially charred remains of a naked woman hidden among some rocks at a remote hiking trail.

A full scale murder investigation was immediately initiated and the case has since evolved to become the most comprehensive criminal case by the Bergen police, Norway Police traced the woman back to two suitcases that were found in a train station in Bergen, Norway. Police also found that the labels had been removed from every piece of clothing she wore, and that her fingerprints had been sanded away. Police eventually found out that the woman had travelled around Norway and Europe with nine different identities: Jenevive Lancia, Claudia Tjelt, Vera Schlosseneck, Claudia Nielsen, Alexia Zarna-Merchez, Vera Jarle, Finella Lorck and Elizabeth Leen Hoywfer. All of these identities were false.

According to witness sightings the woman used various wigs, and in the trunk there were found several cryptic diary entries. The codes were later deciphered by police who concluded that they were coded dates and places the woman had previously visited. The woman’s teeth were thoroughly checked during the autopsy, and the way the dental work was performed indicated that the woman had been to a dentist in Latin America. Witnesses reported that the woman had spoken several languages: French, German, English and Dutch. The woman had stayed at several hotels in Bergen. She had repeatedly changed rooms after checking in, when she wanted a room that had a balcony. In the papers she signed the cheque specified that she was a travelling saleswoman and an antiquities collector.

On 24th November, five days before the discovery of the woman, a local 26-year old man was hiking with friends around the same area. He reported to have come across a woman of foreign appearance, her face completely distorted by fear. He noted that the woman was dressed elegantly, although not appropriately for being outdoors, let alone hiking in the hills.

As they passed each other she formed her mouth as if to say something but appeared intimidated by two black-coated men who followed close behind her. The 26-year-old contacted the police after hearing that a young woman had been found dead in the same area. He immediately recognized her from the composite sketches, but according to him the policeman with whom he spoke answered “Forget her, she was dispatched. The case will never be solved.”

Marina and yacht image
'A Fraudster's Shadow' book cover