AUDIO: Watchdog Nation Confronts “Inspector Luigi” The Scammer

Note: Columnist Dave Lieber revisits the story of retired American Airlines captain George Kahak in this 2014 Dallas Morning News column, “A man who fell for, and lost, everything.” After it appeared, readers requested to hear the original audio of Lieber talking to scammer “Inspector Luigi” who pretended to be a U.S. Customs Agent. Watchdog Nation reprints this 2009 post with the sound recordings below.

Ever wonder what a scammer sounds like? Listen to a vulture who preys upon the elderly with a phone call. He wants the 86-year-old man to wire money to a foreign country. But this scam can be stopped when you know how it works. That’s the basis of consumer protection and my Watchdog Nation.

Please let me introduce you to Inspector Luigi. (This next video is an intro, but you can skip to the actual audio files below.)

He is with the U.S. Customs Service — or so this fraud says. He called my pal, George Kahak, who probably holds the world title as victim of the most scams.

I first wrote about George in my Dave Lieber Watchdog column in The Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 2009. The story is so fascinating that I reprinted it in my book — Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation.

I’d love for you to read the short chapter on George in this memorable excerpt.

So the other day George called me. He was about to get bit again. He won a half million dollars in a lottery. But the organizers wanted to explain to him how to claim his prize. It involved him sending money to them.

As always, I warned him off. But this time, when Inspector Luigi called George, I was there.

I asked George if I could take the phone. Then I told Inspector Luigi that George is hard of hearing. Meanwhile, I taped it for you.

Captain George Kahak. He died in 2010.

Captain George Kahak. He died in 2010.

Please listen to the slick, deep voice of this con artist. He’s a beaut. Each segment is just a few minutes.

In Act I, he explains the scam to me in detail.

Listen here:

In Act II, he continues his ridiculous explanation. 

In Act III, well, here’s the real drama. He tells me where to wire the money. Then, The Watchdog confronts him. (This sound file ends when the good inspector hangs up on me.)

In Act IV, I call back a few days later and Luigi pretends he is some other guy who answers the phone. When he tries to connect me — surprise — I get disconnected. 

And in the finale, Act V, he tries to pretend, once again, that he is someone else. But it’s obviously his voice. 


Bastards like Luigi do this every day. There are thousands of them. They prey on your grandmother, your parents, your friends and neighbors. They are so convincing that they get enough victims to make this worthwhile. Luigi is a classic case.

Watchdog Nation can’t stop the Inspector Luigis of the world from operating, but you can expose them and make it clear to all exactly how they operate.

Please share this blog post with those whom you care about.

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Dave Lieber, The Watchdog columnist for The Dallas Morning News, is the founder of Watchdog Nation. His book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong, won two national book awards in 2009 for social change. Please use these icons below to share this warning message on Facebook, Twitter and your other favorite social sites.

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The Watchdog: The terrible life and death of a Dallas-Fort Worth con man

I always think it’s easier in today’s digitized, easy-to-hide society for a confidence man — or con man — to make more money as a crook than as an honest man. Victims are easy to find. The chance of getting caught and punished is slim.

But now the lonely death of North Texas con man Brian Littlefield causes me to rethink my disturbing theory of evil and the often lack of accompanying justice. His final days show why the desperado life may not be worth living.

Littlefield was one of the most hated men in North Texas. He owed money to dozens, no hundreds, of companies and individuals. His goal in life seems to have been never pay for anything. His debts, shown in nine bankruptcy filings (nine!), reveal that with certainty.

Few know he died sometime in late August. A notice of his death never appeared.

“Some people get obituaries, and some people don’t,” explains Don Willis, who followed the ugly arc of Littlefield’s life.

Littlefield owned a business, Discount Appliance Service Co., for which he placed ads offering to fix refrigerators, washers and the like. He’d show up at someone’s house, take a deposit and sometimes attempt a repair. But when the fix went bad, the chance of getting him to return was null and void.

“My refrigerator wasn’t cooling,” said a woman from Fort Worth, where Littlefield set up shop. “He said it needed Freon. He added something, but it became warmer. I called several times. No response. I called to stop payment on the check, but he already cashed it.

“He goes directly to the check writer’s bank and cashes the check. We ended up getting rid of the refrigerator as he completely ruined it.”

Typically, he’d install a used part and tell the customer it was new. Or he wouldn’t finish the job. Then he’d disappear.

Stories about his act are as easy to find as dead leaves in the fall. One man paid a service fee and money for a part that didn’t work. “I left a message, and he never called back.” A few years later, the man’s father fell for the same thing. The father paid $50 upfront, then Littlefield actually returned, but he wanted another $50.

The father gave it to him. “He never saw him again and would not return calls,” the son remembered. “Dad said he felt like a chump.” Like father, like son.

Another man named Brian Littlefield often paid the price. “I used to get phone calls for this guy,” the other Littlefield remembered. “I had people who would call my answering machine and cuss me, saying ‘You took my washer/dryer.’ But it’s not me. I’m a financial adviser.”

Once, they even talked by phone. “Hey, I’ve got a lot of people calling for you,” the good Littlefield told the bad one.

The bad one didn’t care. “There are some that I will not call back because they are yelling and screaming and being hostile on an answering machine,” he told me in 2007 when I found him in East Texas. “I have a policy: If someone is hostile, I will not call them at all.”

“Why do they get hostile?” I asked.

“I’m not sure why.”

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Aside from his appliance scams, Littlefield manipulated the court system, too. Forget that many thought the court system should be going after him. That didn’t happen. “No one with any power is stopping him from preying on the people,” one victim said. He was adept at legal maneuvers, serving as his own lawyer. He lost small claims court cases the way marathoners lose pounds. When he lost, he didn’t pay.

His nine bankruptcies, about one a year during the last decade, were designed to stave off housing evictions. (Lists of his creditors show he owed every business imaginable from bail bondsmen to electricity companies, banks, the government and video rental stores.)

Every time a landlord would prepare to evict him, he’d file bankruptcy to grab another 60 or 90 days before hitting the street to do it elsewhere. Not one bankruptcy was completed.

He was evicted more than two dozen times for nonpayment of rent, one lawyer said. “He drove a lot of people just about nuts. He knew how to throw up roadblocks.”

A property manager said, “I am pretty sure he holds our office record for going the longest period of time dodging an eviction action. He was skilled enough to run up the landlord’s legal bills and extend his occupancy without spending his own money.”

Littlefield admitted none of this. He didn’t run off with the money for no reason, he once explained. “If you change your mind, the deposit is forfeited,” he said with the confidence of a con.

“I would say I’m a good repairman, subject to making mistakes like anyone else. Everyone is human. Everyone makes mistakes. I’m not perfect. But I have been doing this for many years.”

He was known for giving tips about crimes to area police. Police didn’t charge him with theft because his bad business practices were considered a civil matter. “I’ve never been convicted of a felony,” he bragged.

He spent the last year of his life squatting illegally in an abandoned house in west Fort Worth. It was the perfect setup. No rent. No fee. No one to bother him.

He was sick with diabetes and other ailments. He didn’t work anymore. He had a horrible growth on his face that made him an ogre to look at. And when he died nine weeks ago, nobody noticed. Not for a week.

At age 52, the con man died alone in a fetid house not his own. Friendless and broke.

Read the latest Watchdog Nation reports from Dave Lieber at The Dallas Morning News Watchdog page.

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Are you tired of fighting the bank, the credit card company, the electric company and the phone company? They can be worse than scammers the way they treat customers. A popular book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong, shows you how to fight back — and win! The book is available at as a hardcover, CD audio book, e-book and hey, what else do you need? The author is The Watchdog columnist for The Dallas Morning News. Visit our store. Now revised and expanded, the book won two national book awards for social change.



When it comes to investing, don’t be trusting

Ten years later, Arlington, Texas schoolteacher Sandy Goodwin is still haunted by the man she calls “the old grandfather.” She says he sweet-talked her out of $50,000. By the time she figured out that her investment in overseas equipment was a ruse, her money was long gone.

She hired a lawyer who worked out a deal for the return of the money. But that fell through. She complained three times (three!) to the Tarrant County district attorney’s office but was rejected each time. She sent the old man letters begging, “I need that money to live.” He put her off. Then his lawyer told her to leave him alone.

As readers of the Dave Lieber Watchdog column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram first learned, she first met the man at school, where she taught his granddaughter. He said all the right things.

“I’m an investment broker, and I want to help you.

“I know you’re single. You’re such a wonderful teacher. You mean so much to my granddaughter.

“I want to invest some money for you, and you can get it back anytime you want. No time limit. No strings attached.”

Bernie Madoff

A decade later, she says: “I trusted the old grandfather. He was sending his granddaughter to a private Christian school. I had no reason to doubt him. I thought he was a good Christian man trying to help me.”

He told her he owned a brokerage company. His letterhead listed his home address. If he had a brokerage, he forgot to register it with the state.

There was no literature describing the investment and no contract. Just sweet talk.

She gave him $50,000 in eight payments between 2000 and 2002. Half the time, she didn’t get a receipt, though she asked. When he did give her one, he had it notarized to make it look official.

The profit he promised on one receipt I saw was “15-18 percent interest.” Too good to be true.

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Her told her not to tell anyone else that she was investing with him, she remembers, “because he could not help everyone.”

He did give her some money — $400.

When she asked for the rest, he came up with fantastic stories: Somebody was killed trying to get the money out of South Africa. He planned to move the money to Germany in small amounts, but he couldn’t leave the country. See, the feds were on to him. He had to wear an ankle bracelet because of his troubles with the law.

None of that was true.

At the same time, his family treated her like a daughter. They bought her Christmas presents and invited her to Thanksgiving and to a wedding. “You were such a good teacher for my granddaughter, we want to keep you close,” the old man said.

Last month, I spoke to him on the phone. He told me she got more than $400 back. She was paid in cash, he said. How much? “I’d have to sit down and figure it.”

Losing everything

He lost everything, too, he said: “I’m sorry for the lady. I’m sorry for me. My wife and I went from driving Jaguars to driving old Neons. I had a home I had to unload in Arlington. Lost everything. I was living the high life. Condos in Florida and down in the Caribbean. I come away with nothing.”

The district attorney’s office didn’t take the case because “no viable, prosecutable offense has occurred,” a letter to Goodwin said. David Lobingier, head of the economic crimes unit, wrote two rejection letters to her and told me that teachers are easily victimized.

“When the economy is soft, they are afraid they will outlive their retirement savings. They invest to get more in returns. God, it just breaks your heart to think they’ve been duped that way.”

Goodwin didn’t pick up the key piece of the puzzle until 2009. That’s when she asked the Texas State Securities Board for a free background check on the grandfather. She learned that neither he nor his investment was registered with the state, as required.

By then, the statute of limitations had expired: five years for an unregistered agent such as the grandfather; three years for registered sellers.

Checking registrations

All sellers of investments must register with the state securities board. Individual investment opportunities must be registered, too.

To check, call the state securities board at 888-663-0009 and ask for a free regulatory report on an individual. It has information about a seller’s work history, legal problems, disciplinary actions, scores on license exams and customer complaints.

The teacher learned her lesson: “I would investigate him as a person. I would investigate his company. I would talk to other people and ask: ‘Do you know anything about his background? Can you fill me in?’

“I had faith in mankind. I never thought anyone would take advantage of me.”

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Dave Lieber shows Americans how to fight back against corporate deceptions in his wonderful book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong. Are you tired of losing time, money and aggravation to all the assaults on our wallets? Learn how to fight back with ease — and win. Get the book here.

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Victim or scammer? A tale of a fake check and an honored ex-offender

The man needed a job, and so he said that when the bank check for $1,950 arrived in the mail, he jumped at the accompanying offer to become a mystery shopper.

All he had to do was cash the check and send someone connected with the company part of the money as a Western Union money transfer. The rest was for him to use for mystery shopping to evaluate businesses, he was told. Afterward, he’d file reports about his experiences. Simple enough.

On Nov. 9, he went to his bank, Bank of America, but employees there told him they couldn’t cash the check. Since it appeared to be a Wells Fargo check, he was told to go there.

At a Wells Fargo branch in DeSoto, he was told to have a seat. Fifteen minutes later, a DeSoto police officer walked up to him and said, “Sir, can you stand and put your hands behind your back, please?”

“What?” the man asked.

As first reported in the Dave Lieber column in the Dec. 20, 2009 Watchdog column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the man was arrested on suspicion of forgery of a financial instrument. On Nov. 30, he was indicted by a Dallas grand jury.

This is the first time I’ve seen a case where the apparent victim of a scam is arrested. But there are two important facts that must be disclosed.

Alfred Hitchcock made a 1956 movie about a man falsely accused of a crime.

Alfred Hitchcock made a 1956 movie about a man falsely accused of a crime.

First, the arrested man is Randolph Shaheed, 59, who in the late 1960s was one of Fort Worth’s most notorious gangster killers. He served 15 years in prison and is now on parole for life. (Watch a Mickey Grant documentary about him here.)

Second, he is one of the most honored ex-offenders in Texas. Two days before his arrest, the Dallas office of the state Parole Division held its annual Success Celebration, at which Shaheed was honored for helping ex-offenders succeed after they are freed.

When I asked the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to describe the award he received, the agency released a 171-word statement that describes his good deeds, calls him the ideal client and says he is “trying to promote positive change.”

How much Shaheed’s criminal record contributed to his current predicament is hard to say. He has a court date Tuesday, and the charges could be sorted out then. When I asked about his case, the DeSoto police and the Dallas County district attorney’s office mentioned his criminal background.

Shaheed said that when the mystery shopper offer arrived, he was in a confused state because his 20-year-old daughter, from whom he was estranged, had died suddenly Nov. 5.

At the time, he said he wasn’t aware that the mystery shopper ploy is a common scam. Targets of the scam are told to cash a check and send a portion of it to the purported mystery shopping company. The Federal Trade Commission says on its Web site: “The truth is that it is unnecessary to pay money to anyone to get into the mystery shopper business. ?.?.?.? Consumers who try to get a refund from promoters of mystery shopping jobs usually are out of luck. Either the business doesn’t return the phone calls, or if it does, it’s to try another pitch.”

Shaheed showed me e-mails from a Fred Mcguire of New York. (Read them here.) Shaheed said he believed that the e-mails were authentic — but they fit the classic scam. The best clue that something was wrong came in the task that Mcguire assigned him: Shaheed was supposed to visit his neighborhood Western Union office and describe all the mechanics of wire transfers from that office, including the name of money agents on duty.

When police confronted him at the bank, Shaheed said “he was a mystery shopper on the Internet,” according to a police report.

He spent four days in jail before his wife posted bail.

He is being represented by a public defender who didn’t return my calls.

Once released, Shaheed called Fred Mcguire in New York to tell him what happened.

“There’s something funny about the number,” he told me. “It just rang as if it were a phone booth or something.”

Shaheed has tried to explain that he was the intended victim of a scam.

“Doesn’t anyone want to listen to me?” he asked. “I’ve presented all the proof. I thought it was a check, brother. You know what I mean? I thought I was getting a part-time job.”

At Wells Fargo, the teller suspected that the check Shaheed presented was fraudulent, bank spokeswoman Helen Bow said. “She immediately notified the Police Department,” Bow said. She declined to answer other questions, referring The Watchdog to police investigators.

DeSoto police Capt. Ron Smith is skeptical of Shaheed’s story. “Don’t believe everything you hear,” Smith said. Although he acknowledged he had not reviewed the case file, Smith said he would be surprised if Shaheed was the victim of a scam.

In 1969, Shaheed, then known as Randolph Brown, killed a grocery store clerk in a bungled robbery attempt. Later that night, he attempted another robbery. All told, he shot at seven people, killing one and wounding two.

He was already infamous. Two years earlier, he had walked onto a Fort Worth bus holding a knife. When the driver kicked him and a friend off, he punched the driver, who started shooting. His friend was killed. He turned himself in on television at KXAS/Channel 5.

He was convicted of murder for the 1969 slaying and sent to prison, and he was paroled in 1984. After his release, he made a deal with the FBI to go undercover to break up a drug ring. Afterward, he was temporarily placed in the witness protection program. He testified against 17 defendants, the Star-Telegram has reported. All were convicted.

Then he became a minister and worked on many anti-gang programs for kids — his new life’s work. For that he was honored by the Parole Division. Excerpts from its statement released to me last week:

“With the last three years, Randolph Brown has become an advocate for other offenders. In 2005, Brown started a program now called ‘Ex-Offender’s of America Alumni Association,’ or XOAAA, where prison ministry goes beyond prayer.

“Through his program, Brown uses his voice, gifts, talents and ministry to bring forth healing for ex-offenders and those affiliated with them. The program promotes employment searches, how to get a job, finance management, spiritual counseling and more.

“The XOAAA program does not benefit just offenders but crime victims and family members as well.”

Brown also organized the Coming Up Program in Fort Worth, the statement says.

After praising his work on a radio program and cable TV, the Parole Division concluded, “Offender is more than just an ideal client. He is an advocate for ex-offenders trying to promote positive change within our community.”

Dave Lieber, The Watchdog columnist for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is the founder of Watchdog Nation. His book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong, won two national book awards in 2009 for social change. Twitter @DaveLieber