Fake Warren Buffett…

March 24, 2009

First, there was Fake Steve Jobs, a popular blog that was written in the voice of Apple’s (AAPL) CEO. Then the folks at Newsgroper came along with a site devoted to fake blogs from people like Ann Coulter, the Pope and Warren Buffett. Now, judging by this press release from the SEC yesterday, real life is imitating Internet life.

A California company called International Realty Holdings managed to lure investors to part with hundreds of thousands of dollars by claiming that Warren Buffett — the real one — was an honorary chairman of the company as well as an investor. That according to the complaint one of the people running International Realty was a prison guard when he wasn’t pretending to be Warren’s BFF, just makes the story all the more interesting. The company also claimed that Credit Suisse (CS) owned a 50% stake. Since October, the prison guard, Ottoniel Medrano and his associate, Leticia Isabel Medrano, who has the same last name but is never described as a spouse or relative in the complaint, raised more than $700,000, transferring the bulk of that money to banks in the Phillippines.

At least for now, International Realty’s website is still up. One nice touch is the warning at the bottom that warns people to “beware of bogus websites” (as opposed to bogus investment schemes). While Buffett’s name does not appear prominently on the site, it is listed on the organization structure page. The site has lots of spelling errors, including the name of Buffett, something you’d presumably try to get correct if you were legit.

Now we don’t pretend to be psychologists here at footnoted, but one can only imagine coming home from a day of guarding inmates at California City Correctional Center, where Ottoniel Medrano worked, and spending your spare time working on a website to solicit money from investors. For Medrano’s sake, let’s hope that nobody there holds a grudge against him.

In tough economic times, schemers like this tend to come out of the woodwork. After all, it’s a lot easier to raise $250,000 a month from unsuspecting investors with a poorly designed website than to work in a prison.

Image source: Bloomberg News

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