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Friday, November 09, 2018

This is NOT Normal 

by tristero

I'd like to highlight something in Tom Sullivan's earlier post here.

Tom linked to this WaPo article about now acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, whose past includes a paid position on the advisory board of an organization better described as a conspiracy of grifters and scam artists than as a legitimate business.

The article says that "the FTC filed a complaint against Miami-based World Patent Marketing, accusing it of misleading investors and falsely promising that it would help them patent and profit from their inventions, according to court filings." Earlier this year, a Florida federal court ordered the company to close its doors and pay a settlement of over $25 million. And Whitaker did more than merely advise. He also appeared in videos touting the company.

Below are excerpts from that article. I want to make it very clear that it is a nearly unheard of occurrence for a top official at the Justice Department, let alone an acting Attorney General, to have such a close association with such a corrupt business.

This is NOT normal. To imagine that the country would stand for someone like Whitaker overseeing, for crissakes, the Justice Department, reveals a deep cynicism not only about government but about the American people. Whitaker, regardless of his oft-stated public opinions about the Mueller investigation, should not be working at the Justice Department in the first place.

One more thing. My guess is that the investigation into Whitaker's past association with con artists, criminals and the like has just begun. I suspect Trump himself may think there's more sleaze in Whitaker's past as he's going out of his way to lie about how well he knows Whitaker.

Whitaker has to go. Now.
It’s really upsetting to know that guy will be attorney general,” said Ryan Masti, 26, who lost $77,000 after paying World Patent Marketing to help him bring to market his idea for a social media app to help the disabled. “It’s so offensive. It’s like a stab in the back.”
Whitaker was paid at least $10,000 by the company, according to court filings.
“As a former U.S. Attorney, I would only align myself with a first class organization,” Whitaker said in a 2014 company news release. “World Patent Marketing goes beyond making statements about doing business ‘ethically’ and translate those words into action.” 
According to the FTC, however, the company falsely promised clients it would patent and market their ideas in exchange for hefty fees — and then pocketed the money.
“For the last three years, Defendants have operated an invention-promotion scam that has bilked thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars,” the agency alleged in a recently unsealed court filing. “In truth and in fact, Defendants fail to fulfill almost every promise they make to consumers.” 
World Patent Marketing salespeople would persuade prospective clients to sign a confidentiality agreement and then ask them to explain their idea, according to court documents. 
Whatever the concept, no matter how banal or improbable, investigators found, the salesperson would pronounce the idea fantastic and encourage the customer to pay for a package to market and patent the idea, documents show. 
Many people ended up in debt or lost their life savings, according to the FTC.
Promotional material highlighted the meaty résumés of board members like Whitaker, which seemed to be a key component of the business operation. The company said the board would help review inventors’ ideas to maximize their ability to get rich. 
“Innovators are today’s revolutionaries — forward-thinking visionaries that have come together to form the powerful and influential World Patent Marketing advisory board,” the narrator of one promotional video intoned, as photos of Whitaker and other board members filled the screen. 
Masti, who said he struggled with ADHD as a child and hoped his invention would help others like him, said in an interview that he trusted the company in part because he was told that advisory board members, including Whitaker, had reviewed his idea and thought it would be successful. 
“They said he’s very high up. He’s a professional. He’s got a lot of power,” said Masti, a resident of Cameron, N.Y., who said he voted for Trump in 2016. “That’s how they sold you.” 
Now, Masti said he is living with his parents and facing crushing debt from loans he took out to pay the company. 
Another former customer, Penn Mason, an airline employee from Nashville, said he paid World Patent Marketing $21,000 to help him patent and market a real estate app he had invented. 
The company failed to patent his product and quickly stopped returning his phone calls, he said. 
Mason said he believes that paid advisory board members like Whitaker essentially pocketed money from unsuspecting victims. 
“That was our money,” said Mason, 52. Of Whitaker’s selection as acting attorney general, he said, “It makes me sick to my stomach . . . It’s like a punch in the gut.”