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Thursday, October 21, 2010

So I invested in a couple albums... Securities Fraud Fail!

So some may know that I love listening to music. A couple years back a good friend of mine approached me with an opportunity to invest in an album of previously unreleased works by Jimmy Hendrix (http://www.myspace.com/jimispeaks). I was told that it was a collection of spoken word pieces that had been unreleased to the public and that the release of this material would mean tremendous sales, and depending on my investment I could make up to a dollar per album sold. They planned to release just before the Christmas shopping season through direct marketing and brick-and-mortar record stores, (hadn't caught on to the ITunes store as a sales channel yet, it seems). Nevertheless I bit. I opted for the lesser amount providing a return of half a "point" per album (fifty cents), signed the investment agreement (promising quarterly sales reports to me), wrote a fat check to Mr. Marino DeSilva (http://www.iconzofrock.com/), and anxiously awaited the album release and sales reports. Well the album dropped on time and we got a few copies of the album. It turns out it was not original works of Jimmy Hendrix but a collection of some poorly recorded interviews by a swedish writer with Jimmy Hendrix. I listened to it once and felt pretty burned. I then started making requests for the sales reports to indicate if anyone else would be buying the album. These sales reports never materialized but before too long I was approached again by my good friend describing a new opportunity that was much better than the previous. This was for a Rolling Stones compilation including unreleased works and collaborations with Johnny Depp, Bruce Willis, among others... (http://angelsonearthfoundation.org/musicstore.html) duped again, No sales reports no sales, and the CD copies that were begrudgingly shared were packaged in a DVD type case instead of a CD jewel case. I don't buy CDs in DVD cases, that's stupid. I doubt anyone else does either. 
Nevertheless I ignored my instincts that this was a crap operation and considered YET ANOTHER offer by my good friend. This was for the release of some previously unreleased BEATLES works. The release of this album would also be in conjunction with a new movie based on John Lennon's life and was currently in production with VH1 films; this release would also be through mainstream channels including the Itunes store. This one seemed much much better than the previous but had a higher price per point. I bit again, cashed in my meager retirement savings and signed it over, once again, to Mr. Marino DeSilva. I received a few status updates through my friend of this and other ventures that he and Mr. Marino were becoming involved in. Ventures like a new Las Vegas night club, potential investors in Dubai, etc. Much like any sales reports, these ventures never materialized either and my friend is no longer working with Marino DeSilva.

Today I received a blind-forwarded message from my (still) good friend including a message from another party describing something that's going on. Unfortunately the message was dated more than a month prior to the current date. Thanks friend...

~Message Excerpt~
You really need to speak to John Arana at the Nevada AG's office. His info is below. Just give him a call to set a time, it'll take about all of 15 min. He wants as many people as possible to have made statements against Marino, so get this to Jan as well.
I found out that they will get a felony conviction for up to 20 yrs. and that would be contingent upon the most amount of complaints. We are also in line for any assets he may have.
This guy even went to his house! He also said he's done time before, filed for bankruptcy and other arrests. Don't wait just give him a call.
~End Excerpt~

So I called and left my number and let them know it was regarding an investigation into Mr. Marino DeSilva's investment practices. I also asked my good friend (yet still), if he had any information or perspective, I asked what's going on. I think he feels guilty for pulling me into this scam that he was helping to pro-generate. Oh well, he certainly helped sell me quite a bill of goods and didn't have my back much when the shit came apart. I'm interested to know what he has to say, if anything.

Then I did a little more searching and I found a blog by Michael Gray describing the problems he's had with a similar album release. In this case it was a boxed set of works by an early blues musician named Blind Willie McTell. His blog can be found here: http://is.gd/gbykN

To give some perspective, Larry Cohn is a well known promoter and production mogul that has a fairly illustrious background and parted ways with Marino a couple years back. The Beatles material was supposedly acquired during that separation.

This is an excerpt from some correspondence posted there on Michael Gray's Blog (http://is.gd/gbykN) :

From: Cohnnotb4x@aol.com
Date: 28 July 2008 18:06:39 BST

Subject:Blind Willie McTell Boxed Set.
To All:

I'm not sure as exactly how to begin this, so I'll just say that I am sorry beyond words as to what has happened regarding the Blind
Willie McTell project and I accept complete, unconditional blame. By way of explaination:

{Some of you may be aware of the following and if so, I ask that you bear with me while I review the situation.}

13 Months ago we discovered quite by accident that the German company that was financing
CohnDeSilva, had been duped by my former partner Marino DeSilva into sending $500,000 that was to be for the McTell project, into an account that he maintained under another name and which had absolutely nothing to do with Larry Cohn, CohnDeSilva or the Blind Willie McTell Boxed set project. [There's a further amount of $128,000 involved; I'll spare everyone details.]

For the last 13 months since this was uncovered, I've been faced with huge legal bills in order to
dissolve CohnDeSilva and in this regard, the State of California has many, many requirements, and gives the advantage to the person against whom the action is being brought. The cost to me both financially and emotionally has been unbelievable. Further, after 2 years of trying to obtain the McTell Subscribers list from my former partner, I only received
it last week and this as a result of a Court Order. All of the funds received from Subscribers went to
my former partner who to this day unbelievably refuses to account for the monies and further, refuses
to restore the funds {to me} for distribution back to everyone. So to the point: the obligation is now mine. We are in process of speaking to various people about
the prospect of new financing and that being said, I ask that you all bear with me and accept my promise that no one will lose their money; either the Box will be completed and all subscribers will receive same or if I see that it is not going to happen, I will refund everyone's money out of my own pocket. At the moment, I am still paying legal bills and require some much needed time.

I can not even begin relate to everyone my sorrow and shame and the fact that I trusted someone has caused me unspeakable grief. Those of you who know me, well I don't think that I have to make a case for my character & honesty.
Those of you who don't know me personally or who have never dealt with me, please contact those who know me for a fair evaluation of my efforts and my dealings with people over the years. I shall keep everyone informed every step of the way, from this point forward, and thank everyone for taking the time to read this angst-ridden EMail.
Sincerely to all,
Larry Cohn

Mr. Gray also goes on to include his opinion of Mr. Cohn. I have included this only for amusement as I agree that in my personal experience these music big shots all appear to be douche bags.

Mr. Gray:
Which is all very well, except that (a) from July until November is an awfully long time for Mr. Cohn to have the subscribers list back in his possession and still not have contacted everyone on it to give them all this information, and a further update, individually; and (b) speaking as a person who has had some experience of dealing with Mr. Cohn personally, I think a fair evaluation would be that he's belligerent, ego-centric, touchy, ill-tempered and impetuous. But that's just my opinion.

Al Bowman, LA Music Awards Founder, Larry Cohn, Sony VP and Marino De Silva of Angels on Earth Foundation at the Ritz Carlton, Marina del Rey, CA





So that's the latest of my ill-fated music investment venture. I'll post updates here as they develop. I'm so glad that I didn't push the friends I told to invest in this scam; I don't think I could have forgiven myself easily. I'm going to work on forgiving myself for throwing so much good money after bad. Marino DeSilva is a crook and I'm not all that impressed with his production capabilities or supposed talents. But that, is also my opinion.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Last Week was Columbus Day...

Once again, it's time to celebrate Columbus Day. Yet, the stunning
truth is: If Christopher Columbus were alive today, he would be put on
trial for crimes against humanity. Columbus' reign of terror, as
documented by noted historians, was so bloody, his legacy so
unspeakably cruel, that Columbus makes a modern villain like Saddam
Hussein look like a pale codfish.

Question: Why do we honor a man who, if he were alive today, would
almost certainly be sitting on Death Row awaiting execution?

If you'd like to know the true story about Christopher Columbus,
please read on. But I warn you, it's not for the faint of heart.

Here's the basics. On the second Monday in October each year, we
celebrate Columbus Day (this year, it's on October 11th). We teach our
school kids a cute little song that goes: "In 1492, Columbus sailed
the ocean blue." It's an American tradition, as American as pizza pie.
Or is it? Surprisingly, the true story of Christopher Columbus has
very little in common with the myth we all learned in school.

Columbus Day, as we know it in the United States, was invented by the
Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal service organization. Back
in the 1930s, they were looking for a Catholic hero as a role-model
their kids could look up to. In 1934, as a result of lobbying by the
Knights of Columbus, Congress and President Franklin Roosevelt signed
Columbus Day into law as a federal holiday to honor this courageous
explorer. Or so we thought.

There are several problems with this. First of all, Columbus wasn't
the first European to discover America. As we all know, the Viking,
Leif Ericson probably founded a Norse village on Newfoundland some 500
years earlier. So, hat's off to Leif. But if you think about it, the
whole concept of discovering America is, well, arrogant. After all,
the Native Americans discovered North America about 14,000 years
before Columbus was even born! Surprisingly, DNA evidence now suggests
that courageous Polynesian adventurers sailed dugout canoes across the
Pacific and settled in South America long before the Vikings.

Second, Columbus wasn't a hero. When he set foot on that sandy beach
in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492, Columbus discovered that the
islands were inhabited by friendly, peaceful people called the
Lucayans, Taínos and Arawaks. Writing in his diary, Columbus said they
were a handsome, smart and kind people. He noted that the gentle
Arawaks were remarkable for their hospitality. "They offered to share
with anyone and when you ask for something, they never say no," he
said. The Arawaks had no weapons; their society had neither criminals,
prisons nor prisoners. They were so kind-hearted that Columbus noted
in his diary that on the day the Santa Maria was shipwrecked, the
Arawaks labored for hours to save his crew and cargo. The native
people were so honest that not one thing was missing.

Columbus was so impressed with the hard work of these gentle
islanders, that he immediately seized their land for Spain and
enslaved them to work in his brutal gold mines. Within only two years,
125,000 (half of the population) of the original natives on the island
were dead.

If I were a Native American, I would mark October 12, 1492, as a black
day on my calendar.

Shockingly, Columbus supervised the selling of native girls into
sexual slavery. Young girls of the ages 9 to 10 were the most desired
by his men. In 1500, Columbus casually wrote about it in his log. He
said: "A hundred castellanoes are as easily obtained for a woman as
for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who
go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand."

He forced these peaceful natives work in his gold mines until they
died of exhaustion. If an "Indian" worker did not deliver his full
quota of gold dust by Columbus' deadline, soldiers would cut off the
man's hands and tie them around his neck to send a message. Slavery
was so intolerable for these sweet, gentle island people that at one
point, 100 of them committed mass suicide. Catholic law forbade the
enslavement of Christians, but Columbus solved this problem. He simply
refused to baptize the native people of Hispaniola.

On his second trip to the New World, Columbus brought cannons and
attack dogs. If a native resisted slavery, he would cut off a nose or
an ear. If slaves tried to escape, Columbus had them burned alive.
Other times, he sent attack dogs to hunt them down, and the dogs would
tear off the arms and legs of the screaming natives while they were
still alive. If the Spaniards ran short of meat to feed the dogs,
Arawak babies were killed for dog food.

Columbus' acts of cruelty were so unspeakable and so legendary - even
in his own day - that Governor Francisco De Bobadilla arrested
Columbus and his two brothers, slapped them into chains, and shipped
them off to Spain to answer for their crimes against the Arawaks. But
the King and Queen of Spain, their treasury filling up with gold,
pardoned Columbus and let him go free.

One of Columbus' men, Bartolome De Las Casas, was so mortified by
Columbus' brutal atrocities against the native peoples, that he quit
working for Columbus and became a Catholic priest. He described how
the Spaniards under Columbus' command cut off the legs of children who
ran from them, to test the sharpness of their blades. According to De
Las Casas, the men made bets as to who, with one sweep of his sword,
could cut a person in half. He says that Columbus' men poured people
full of boiling soap. In a single day, De Las Casas was an eye witness
as the Spanish soldiers dismembered, beheaded, or raped 3000 native
people. "Such inhumanities and barbarisms were committed in my sight
as no age can parallel," De Las Casas wrote. "My eyes have seen these
acts so foreign to human nature that now I tremble as I write."

De Las Casas spent the rest of his life trying to protect the helpless
native people. But after a while, there were no more natives to
protect. Experts generally agree that before 1492, the population on
the island of Hispaniola probably numbered above 3 million. Within 20
years of Spanish arrival, it was reduced to only 60,000. Within 50
years, not a single original native inhabitant could be found.

In 1516, Spanish historian Peter Martyr wrote: "... a ship without
compass, chart, or guide, but only following the trail of dead Indians
who had been thrown from the ships could find its way from the Bahamas
to Hispaniola."

Christopher Columbus derived most of his income from slavery, De Las
Casas noted. In fact, Columbus was the first slave trader in the
Americas. As the native slaves died off, they were replaced with black
slaves. Columbus' son became the first African slave trader in 1505.

Are you surprised you never learned about any of this in school? I am
too. Why do we have this extraordinary gap in our American ethos?
Columbus himself kept detailed diaries, as did some of his men
including De Las Casas and Michele de Cuneo. (If you don't believe me,
just Google the words Columbus, sex slave, and gold mine.)

Columbus' reign of terror is one of the darkest chapters in our
history. The REAL question is: Why do we celebrate a holiday in honor
of this man? (Take three deep breaths. If you're like me, your stomach
is heaving at this point. I'm sorry. Sometimes the truth hurts. That
said, I'd like to turn in a more positive direction.)

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