Tribune: Need a biweekly dose of fraud?

Don’t we all. If you’re connected to Spidell on Facebook and LinkedIn, we post our biweekly “Fraud Friday” blurbs there, which cover assorted fraudulent acts, scams, and schemes. Here are a few past posts:

Fraud, 300 B.C.-style

One of the earliest recorded instances of fraud took place in 300 B.C. Two Greek merchants, Hegestratos and Zenosthemis, took out an insurance policy and borrowed money on a cargo ship that was allegedly going to be filled with corn, but their plan was to sink the boat, keep the money, and sell the corn elsewhere. As Hegestratos was attempting to chop a hole in the hull of the boat with an axe, one of the crew members discovered him. Hegestratos tried to escape by jumping off the boat and swimming to shore, but he drowned at sea; Zenosthemis was tried in an Athenian court.1

Livin’ la vida Luna

“Tax redirection” is a form of tax rebellion where the individual pays their tax directly to another source rather than the IRS as a form of protest. Julia “Butterfly” Hill, an environmentalist turned proponent of tax redirection, sent about $150,000 in federal taxes directly to schools, arts and culture programs, community gardens, and other recipients, stating in a letter to the IRS, “I’m not refusing to pay my taxes. I’m actually paying them but I’m paying them where they belong because you refuse to do so.” Hill is best known for her tree sit-in the late 1990s, when she lived in a 180-foot-tall Redwood tree named Luna for 738 days to protect it from being cut down by the Pacific Lumber Company.2

Le Fisc goes splish-splash

France is using AI to find undeclared swimming pools, which so far has generated €10 million in tax. In France, a swimming pool can affect tax because housing taxes are calculated based on a property’s rental value. Since the beginning of the pandemic, and with recent heat waves affecting Europe, the number of pools in France has greatly increased. The AI pool-finding project so far has only covered nine of France’s 96 metropolitan areas, but it has already discovered 20,356 undeclared swimming pools. The French tax office DGFiP (aka, Le Fisc) estimates it can bring in an additional €40 million in tax once it’s finished using AI to analyze the rest of metropolitan France.3