My late father — I miss him every day — used to tell me that I was born suspicious and that I had inherited that characteristic from his mother, although the gene must have been dormant in him.
I am not, however, devious. This combination — suspicious but not devious — has drawn me to crime stories since my childhood. Criminals confirm my worst fears about my fellow man, but their crimes — especially complex ones — always surprise and fascinate me.
This is an Opinion
I’ve written about a lot of white-collar crimes during my career, and I’ve read about a lot more, but no scheme has been cleverer, more devious and more fascinating than that with which Jim Bolt of Rogers has been charged.
Disclaimer: Jim Bolt and I go way back. I edited the articles about his penny-stock scheme 11 years ago that prompted him to sue, temporarily and unsuccessfully, my employer for libel. He was long since a convicted felon by then. In 1985, the 10th Circuit of Appeals described Bolt, barely in his 30s, as a “skilled draftsman and printer” and his crimes as “elaborate schemes” that were “built upon a fictitious business enterprise.”
Knowing that about Bolt, I was not surprised that the latest allegations against him involved an elaborate scheme involving fictitious business enterprises and forged documents. But I was surprised at the sheer brilliance of the plot that is alleged. Someone willing to work so hard and able to think so strategically really ought to be a legitimate millionaire rather than a career criminal.
Bolt has not even entered a plea on the 12 criminal charges included in a complaint filed by the FBI, so he certainly hasn’t been convicted of them. But here’s what the FBI says he did, at least twice:
Bolt trolled lists of unclaimed property published by states — like “the Great Arkansas Treasure Hunt” — with an eye peeled for assets held in the name of business entities that had been defunct for several years and were therefore unlikely to make belated claims. I have to assume that the Internet was an indispensable tool in choosing targets.
After settling on a likely target, he would create — forge, fake — the documentation necessary to claim the unclaimed property. He’s been running a nonprofit corporation in Rogers called Situs Cancer Research Center — my suspicious mind shudders at the thought — and that proved to be a very handy tool in his alleged scheme. (Situs was incorporated on the last day of August 2010, and the FBI alleges that Bolt’s unclaimed property scheme commenced about six weeks later. Someone less suspicious might think that timing just coincidental.)
Bolt would draw up documents showing that the last known corporate owner of the unclaimed property had “donated” the property to Situs — or more specifically, to some earlier entity that had changed its name to Situs or been merged with Situs.
These documents would bear the names of people who really were associated with companies that had owned the unclaimed property. When the FBI contacted the people who supposedly signed these documents, they invariably had no knowledge of any such donations and their signatures had been forged. The notarization was also faked.
In April 2011, Bolt allegedly received $153,000 this way. Early this year, he allegedly used the same scheme to hit a much bigger jackpot: $1.9 million worth of unclaimed stock. I suspect (because I was born suspicious) that he used this scheme more than twice — why wait two whole years to repeat something so successful? — but these are the only two schemes with which Bolt is currently charged.
When I described the plot to my husband, he commented that it was “brilliant” because “there really isn’t a victim.” And that’s almost right: The rightful owners of the unclaimed property were the victims, but they didn’t know it. Bolt, it seems, was counting on that because he did little to cover his tracks.
Unfortunately for Jim Bolt, there are companies out there that specialize in matching unclaimed property with the rightful owners in exchange for a finder’s fee. An investigator for one of those companies also spotted the $1.9 million in unclaimed stock and was hoping to get a piece of it. When he learned that it had been claimed a few weeks earlier, he called the FBI and blew the whistle on Jim Bolt.
Bolt deserves his day in court, of course. The last time he faced federal charges — for an investment scheme involving another company that supposedly had a treatment for cancer — he was acquitted. But until then, it looks like he’ll be in jail, because the FBI suspects he was connected — maybe as an accomplice after the fact — in the murder in southwest Missouri of Jack McCain of Rogers back in 2011.
That kind of crime is not the least bit clever.
Gwen Moritz is editor of Arkansas Business. Email her at GMoritz@ABPG.com.