Death by ant
In an interesting case in China, a man was sentenced to death for a scam involving ant farms. Ants are used in traditional Chinese medicine and, as is often the case with many medicines, can be pricey. Reflective of this, the ant breeding kits sold for $1,300 USD. Since the kits cost the scammer $25 USD, and he sold them to over 10,000, er, investors, there was a lot of money involved.
Why would someone pay $1,300 for the kits? Because the buyers were projected to earn returns of 60%. Unfortunately, the investors ended up with a lot of ants and $1,300 less than they started with.
As often happens in such cases, the money – some $385 million according to the Associated Press report, though we question how 10,000 investors could invest this much at $1,300 a pop, – has largely disappeared. Only $1,280,000 has been recovered.
Besides the ringleader being sentenced to death, fifteen other managers were fined and sent to jail. With fifteen managers, this was obviously a large and relatively sophisticated scheme, with a lot of information floating about, so you might be surprised so little was found, even if the reported loss was off by an order of magnitude. We aren’t: Law enforcement is interested in successful prosecution. They do not do asset recovery. Courts do levy fines, but only rarely are they ever collected. It is up to the collective investors to hire fraud recovery experts to get the funds.
In all likelihood the funds will stay where they were put, and will either default to bank or stay with the lucky relatives.