Another Ponzi scheme is currently shaking up our community. In fact, multiple Ponzi schemes are rapidly unfolding – one in Lakewood, another in Brooklyn, and a third in the Five Towns.
Collectively, we’re looking at losses in the ballpark of a jaw-dropping $100 million. Do I know the exact numbers? Of course not, because, let’s be real, who actually knows who’s running these Ponzi schemes?
Rumor has it they’re people of standing in the frum community, but that’s where the trail of information goes cold. I’m in the dark about the names or specifics of the people orchestrating each scheme. All I know is that they’re heimishe people. For all I know, they could be my neighbors.
This is where the real problem begins. Everyone’s too scared to name names.
“Who’s the mastermind behind the Ponzi scheme?” I’ve asked around. Most people just shrug. A few exchange knowing looks but clam up when it comes to spilling the beans.
“Loshon hora,” one of them said rather piously. “I don’t think I’m allowed to say his name.”
We’re dealing with a serial grifter in our midst. This isn’t the first Ponzi scheme, and judging by how things are looking, it won’t be the last. The only potential deterrent? Publicizing the con artist’s name, plastering his face on every street sign, and scrawling in big letters on his house, “This man is a thief.”
That’s the only language these people understand, and it’s the only way we can protect the public from falling victim to future schemes.
In the old days, we used to tar and feather people like this. Today, I suggest we metaphorically bring back that punishment. Not physically, of course. But let’s tar and feather their names.
How about posters in every shul and yeshiva, featuring a big mugshot of the Ponzi schemer, complete with his address and phone number? Articles in all the Jewish newspapers detailing what he did and how he did it.
What, you think that’s embarrassing, demeaning, and hurtful? Should we be sensitive to the Ponzi schemer’s feelings? What about the feelings, mental anguish, and drained bank accounts he left in the wake of his innocent victims? Why is nobody talking about that?
Why are we so intent on protecting the identity and name of the Ponzi schemers?
Let his family feel embarrassed about how their father, husband, or brother is a swindler. Yes, it may make it hard for the children to find a shidduch after the news breaks. Sure, it’ll be awkward for his family members to live in their mansions and drive around in their fancy cars, when everyone knows exactly how their lifestyle was funded.
But that’s the whole point.
Create a system of repercussions that embarrass and demean the families of these Ponzi schemers, and suddenly, the schemers will realize it’s not so simple to swindle people’s money. Such public shaming might just be the deterrent we need.
Make these Ponzi perpetrators realize that their actions come with severe social penalties. There’s a hefty price to pay. You’ll be ostracized by the very community you victimized.
And that, my friends, is the best justice of all.
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