By Alex T. Jones – The Firearms Portal
“Today, tens of thousands of private contractors provide military and security services to a variety of clients, including states, corporations, NGOs and even the United Nations. Many PMSCs operate in zones of armed conflict, where they carry out functions that were formerly the exclusive domain of the armed forces.This boom in private security has been most evident in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the US has become dependent on PMSCs to carry out its operations. The US Department of Defense (DOD) now has more contractor personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq than uniformed personnel.
The total expenditure on PMSCs in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2005 and 2010 was of $146 billion, which is about 18 percent of total war spending for operations there:
$33.9 billion on contracts for the Afghanistan theater.
$112.1 billion on contracts for the Iraq theater of operations.
The modern private security industry emerged in the early 1990s, although it has changed significantly since that time. Like other corporations, modern PMSCs are registered corporate bodies with legal personalities and hierarchical management structures. They often have sophisticated websites providing information about their various services.”¹
Melbourne, FL – -(Ammoland.com)- The figures are mind boggling. $146 billion, ($21 for every man, woman and child on the planet), spent on private security in just two countries in the space of five years, rich pickings indeed.
With such high value contracts on offer, the private security sector poses unique corruption risks.
There are estimates that at least $5 billion is lost to corruption in the sector every single year.²
And that is only a modest estimation of the costs incurred when international security concerns become a convenient veil to hide corrupt activity.
Single source contracts, unaccountable and overpaid agents, obscure defense budgets, unfair appointments and promotions, sub-standard training and many more forms of corruption in this secretive sector waste funds and put people's lives at risk. From a QoS point of view the main concern about the private security industry is the fact that, unlike regulated military, there is no real mechanism to ensure that personnel are adequately trained. For example, when a client chooses to engage a PMSC, the client has no control over the standard of training of the personnel supplied.
Not surprisingly, con-men (and women) offering fake jobs, expensive courses that lead to no recognized qualification, and offers of those “dream” jobs that miraculously disappear have found their way to the private security industry in an effort to grab themselves a piece of the pie.
For the fraudsters, fake job scams are a relatively risk free and easy way of separating people from their hard-earned cash. In the private security industry, the most common fake job scam is the “419 Advance Fee Fraud”. This is when the applicant is offered a fantastic sounding job, provided they pay fees for a permit to work in either the country or profession that is being advertised.
Alarm bells should start ringing if the job sounds too good to be true. In the real world, there is not a snowball's chance in hell that someone is going to offer you a cool job with high pay through an unsolicited email. If you receive a job offer like this, just take a step back and review it with common sense. Ask yourself is the rate of pay is really worth what is demanded from the job? No-one throws money away, so if someone claims they will pay you $1,500 a week for driving some kid to and from school each day, trash it. Never ever pay anybody to work. It works the other way round – they pay you. No genuine job offer ever requires the employee to pay the employer for whatever reason. So if someone is asking you to pay for something before you can begin your job, you know for sure that you’re being scammed. The “employer” will either take your money and disappear, or request further payments before you can begin, then take more money and disappear.
Why do scams succeed?
Firstly, a scam looks just like the real deal. It will appear to meet your need or desire. To find out that it is in fact a scam, you must first make the effort to check it properly. You need to ask questions and think carefully before you decide what to do.
Secondly, scammers will manipulate you by ‘pushing your buttons’ to produce the automatic response they want. It’s nothing to do with you personally, it’s to do with the way human beings are wired emotionally and socially – psychology 101. It’s because your response is automatic that you fall for the scam.
By it's very nature, the private security industry is course heavy. As security concerns grow so do the training needs. With this growth there is opportunity. Employment, contracts and promises of work based on completing courses are nothing new but, more and more frequently, those applying are being asked to pay up front. Cases where no course actually exists are on the increase. Remember, unlike fake training providers, legitimate training providers will be open about the prospects and will happily show recent examples of success. They will also incorporate into the course practical ways to use skills learned to build up or into an existing business. This is especially important in the case of firearms training.
I was originally going to split this article into two separate sections covering, on one hand, fake training providers and, on the other, companies scamming people with fake jobs. However, during the course of this investigation I came across dozens of fake or sub standard training companies and fraudulent companies offering non-existent jobs, far too many to include all of them in this article. What I also found is that there is a certain amount of “crossover” where a single entity is involved in both fake training AND fake jobs. So I decided to write about just two of them that pretty much illustrate the whole gamut of of the type of frauds involved.
WCM Ltd and Catherine Yelma
World Consulting Management Ltd aka WCM Ltd is a company registered in the United Kingdom owned by Catherine Yelma, a Moroccan born French citizen, and operated by her from Paris, France. This crazy woman, (more about that later), and her company are the reason I started investigating fraud in the private security sector in the first place right after she screwed over some friends of mine, Space Coast Tactical LLC in Melbourne, Florida.
Yelma's usually advertises a training course of some description, the course title always contains the buzz words “tactical” or “PSD”, and makes promises of finding work for any student that enrolls on that course. WCM Ltd has no trainers, no training grounds or any other training infrastructure so they have to use a (usually legitimate) third party training provider to enable the scam. She will ask that training provider to supply a course for around 20 students and will give them a date which she then advertises. WCM Ltd advertises that they have “contracts” where they can place students who complete (and pay for) one of their courses. I have interviewed many of Yelma's victims and I have yet to find anyone who has ever gained employment either through, or because of, World Consulting Management Ltd or Catherine Yelma.
When the date of the course arrives, she will do one of two things. Either:
- a) she will call the training provider and cancel the course because she doesn't have enough students, in which case she will inform the students that the training provider has canceled the course. She will refuse to refund the course fees to the students – students scammed; or (less likely…)
- b) she will arrive at the training provider with a small number of students, always less than half the number of students booked by her with the training provider – Catch 22 for the training provider, he loses money if he holds the course or if doesn't.
I am still not absolutely certain why “b” happens at all. After talking to several of WCM Ltd's former students and some of the training providers it seems that she does this only when she is put under heavy pressure by students to deliver. There is anecdotal evidence that several angry students have threatened her in order to try and get a refund. However, in most cases when this happens, the training provider won't take the loss and refuses to deliver the course.
This is exactly what happened recently to French company “Helios Formation” who lost an estimated 10,000 Euro ($14,000). Helios' director, Mr Janny Pellerin, told me “The course was supposed to be for 20 students. The day of their arrival, there were only 4 students and M. Yelma…”, he added “… we went ahead but we lost money and after a week of this crazy woman, we canceled the course but she still demanded that we issue her with pass certificates”. WCM Ltd refused to refund the students and Helios are currently suing WCM Ltd and Catherine Yelma in the French courts. She also recently pulled the same trick on IBS Varovanje in Slovenia.
Here's another example. In March 2012 Space Coast Tactical LLC, a well known reputable provider of firearms training in Florida, was approached by Yelma. They were asked to provide a 15 day tactical firearms training and PSD course for 25 students (sound familiar?). A price was agreed and a contract signed at a meeting held in London, England. As Space Coast Tactical LLC only provide firearms training, another company was sub-contracted by them to provide the PSD training. Months later, after many delays Yelma gave a date for the course to start (September 2012) and paid a small deposit. A few days before the start date of the course Space Coast Tactical were told that there would only be 10 students attending the course.
I'll let J Brian Brandley, one of Space Coast Tactical LLC's owners, tell the rest of the story:
“I met Catherine Yelma twice before she signed a contract with us. Once in Paris, France and once in London, England. When I met her I thought she was just a little nuts just because she's French. Oh boy, was I wrong. The contract with WCM Ltd was for Space Coast Tactical LLC to provide the tactical firearms element to a 15 day course and also to act as the agent and facilitator for the PSD and tactical driving modules. In order to do that we brought in a subcontractor. WCM Ltd kept changing the start date of the course and eventually we had to tell them they must commit to a date in September of 2012” as we had other bookings that would conflict.”
“A couple of days before the course start date, I received a call from Catherine Yelma who told me she was having problems getting the required number of students and that there may be a few less than the 25 that were already booked. The day came when we had to collect Catherine Yelma and her French students from Orlando International Airport. I myself went to collect them in the company bus. That's when I found out that she only had 5 students from France (2 of whom were her employees) and another 5 from Sarasota in Florida. We were pretty upset about finding this out at the last moment because we had paid our subcontractors in advance on the basis that there would be 25 students and weren't in a position to re-negotiate that deal.”
“That left us with a dilemma. We either cut our losses and and cancel the course, which we were entitled to do under the terms of our contract with WCM Ltd, or we carry on with 10 students instead of the 25 stipulated in the contract. Howard, my business partner, and I had a discussion to try and decide what to do. We didn't feel that it would be ethical or fair to cancel the course as we had students who had come all the way from Europe and none of this was their fault. So we decided to take the hit, run the course and worry about the money later. One thing we did insist on was that Catherine Yelma pay us the remaining balance owing before we started the course. She tried to make a lot of excuses but, when she realized that there would be no instruction until she did, she paid us the remaining balance owing for the 10 students. I pointed out to her that she had signed a contract that contained a clause that required her to pay to us the entire amount owing for 25 students whether or not they all came. I had inserted this clause for exactly the situation that had happened. We did this because we had a fixed outlay to our subcontractors regardless of how many students were on the course.”
“That was when she went full retard. From the very first day of the course I was getting feedback from the French students that Yelma was bat shit crazy. As part of the contract, we allowed Yelma a free seat on the course for herself. On the first day of the firearms module at the American Police Hall of Fame ranges in Titusville, I got to see it for myself. It started with her making comments about her dead husband who was talking to her and moved on to her telling our instructors that she didn't really need to listen to them because she knew everything. It was obvious to us that she knew precisely NOTHING and was a a danger to herself and others on the range. I eventually banned her from the range. This went on and on every day with her constantly repeating herself and talking bullshit about how she was some kind of magic ninja who goes on secret missions and how everyone was out to get her. I could see how they might want to.”
“To cut a long story short, this is how it continued, interspersed with drama between her and the students at the hotel, until the end of the course. She also asked me for pass certificates for modules she did not complete. I told her to go to hell. You cannot pay me enough to go through that crap again. Needless to say, she did not honor the contract she had signed with us and until this day owes us $37,000 under the terms of that contract. My advice? If you hear the name Catherine Yelma, run like hell.”
If I did not know the guys at Space Coast Tactical LLC, that would be one hell of a funny story. However, funny it isn't. When I heard this is when I got interested in looking a little deeper into WCM Ltd and Catherine Yelma. I soon discovered that there were at least three other training providers in the United States where she had behaved in exactly the same way. I wasn't 100% sure whether Catherine Yelma was a scammer or just certifiably insane until I started to get information from former students and people that had worked for Yelma in the past. They gave me evidence that shows that she deliberately scams people.
I attempted to contact Catherine Yelma or someone else at WCM Ltd using the contact details on their website to ask them if they had any response to the information and evidence of fraud that I have about them. No-one will talk to me. I wonder why? I then spoke to my contacts in Federal law enforcement and asked them if they had heard of Catherine Yelma. Surprise surprise, they had. She is known to the feds and there are some aspects of what she does I have been asked not write about, so I'll honor that request in the name of national security. All I can say in that respect really is watch this space and “stay tuned folks”, it may get interesting.
That brings me to:
Ealgon Security Services and Einar Haraldsson
Mr Haraldsson is an interesting guy to say the least. His name came up as being connected to Catherine Yelma. When I first heard his name, I wasn't that interested as it was a dead end for my investigation. Then I started to hear anecdotes from people that had dealt with him over the years that made me realize that he was also in the scam game, just in a slightly different way. Allegedly, he is running a variation of the Nigerian 419 scam through his company “Ealgon Security Services” which is based in Switzerland or Kenya, depending on who you ask.
This saga of Einar Haraldsson, his shady friends and their shenanigans draws heavily on a great report recently published by “CP Domain”, a well regarded British professional forum for the Close Protection (what we call Executive Protection) industry. The forum website is at www.cp-domain.com
Ealgon Security is currently advertising jobs on a contract in Libya in the usual 419 scam way, no interview and the job offer based solely on your resumé (for our Brit readers this is the real name for what you guys call a CV). They then ask you to pay them a $600 upfront fee for a Libyan visa (I am told that at one point they were asking for $2,400). No legitimate company offering you a job will do so without an interview. Nor will they ever ask you to pay them anything. If they do, it is a scam. In any case my information is that a Libyan visa currently costs less than $300.
Ealgon has no contract in Libya or anywhere else. I believe, and all the evidence confirms, that the company was set up solely to scam unsuspecting people out of their hard earned cash.
The guys at CP-Domain looked at Ealgon in Switzerland and they discovered that the Swiss website (www.ealgon-security.ch) for the company was registered in Switzerland by a guy called Fabian Reinarz. There is another company website (www.ealgon-services.com) also registered to Reinarz but this time to an address in Serbia. Fabian Reinarz's friends all seem to be arabs. He seems to like the arabs so much he (Reinarz) and an associate called Jamal Hussein stand accused by a Swiss guy called Philipp Glanzmann of allegedly stealing a 3-hectare Cannabis field (what the hell?), and leasing 2 BMW's from Switzerland, which they then sold in Iraq. Glanzmann also accuses Reinarz of insurance fraud and other frauds and scams which total 200,000 Swiss Francs ($230,000). Glanzmann also alleges that Fabian Reinarz scammed an old lady out of 5,000 Swiss Francs (almost $6,000).
Some interesting facts:
- Ealgon claims it is a Kenyan company based in Mombasa. This is untrue. There is no company by that name registered in Kenya, I checked. The PO Box that the company uses as an address is just a drop box.
- Ealgon's employee manual is a direct word for word copy of the United States NSA Security Handbook. All Ealgon has done is go through the book and change “NSA” and National Security Agency” to “Ealgon”. (The guys at the NSA were not impressed when I told them that).
- Ealgon has links to a Romanian company called Black Wolf, a well known bunch of keyboard ninjas with delusions of grandeur that no-one takes seriously.
- Ealgon does not have, has never had, and never will have any contracts in Libya. Its a lie.
- Einar Haraldsson is the CEO of Ealgon Security Services. He says that he isn't, but he is, he said so himself on his Linkedin profile, Facebook and other social media. Yet, in an email to me he denies it….
- Both Reinarz and Haraldsson are friends of Catherine Yelma. Haraldsson's other company EIPA has worked with World Consulting Management Ltd on a joint training scam. Yelma was even advertising EIPA on WCM's website.
I first contacted Einar Haraldsson by email in February 2014 as part of my investigation into Catherine Yelma for the Firearms Portal (www.firearmsportal.com) as his name had come up from several different sources as a possible associate. In his initial reply he admitted that he had done business with her and that he met her on several occasions in Paris, France. He stated that she suggested a “collaboration” between WCM Ltd his company which he accepted. Here are his exact words from the email he sent to me:
“This is my Statement regarding Catherine Yelma. Well it started early last year that we start to contact each other. I did not know her at all and when see told me about her company and work it sounds very interesting. She asked me perhaps we can collaborate our companies. I told her it could be interesting thing. She told me that we could conduct training and give students work afterwords. I agree on that.”
The crap spelling is his….. In later emails to me he denied ever having said that. Thing is, an email is a verifiable legal document that can be tested to prove that it is genuine.
In March 2014, I posted a request for information about Catherine Yelma and Einar Haraldsson here on the Firearms Portal. I received many replies but three of them made me a little suspicious and I believe that they were instigated by Haraldsson trying to cover his ass. I received a phone call from a Jessie Rhoades who told me a story of how Yelma had scammed him but now he was in Mombasa. I did a little investigating and found a connection between Rhoades and Haraldsson. So, on April 9, 2014 I sent Einar Haraldsson another email suggesting to him that he had attempted to divert attention from himself and Ealgon and carry out a damage control operation by emailing me himself and arranging for Jessie Rhoades and others to also contact me giving me “information” about Catherine Yelma. This is his response to that (again the spelling is his):
“Those students who Madam Cate (Catherine Yelma) had cheat on contact me and it was I who least tried to help them after this mass. Jessie Roades is one of them. I only like to say in the end I have nothing to hite and done nothing bad or criminal activitys . I am just a person who got involved with a bad persons in this industry which is many of there.”
That's OK then, poor old Einar is just as much a victim as all those students who lost thousands of dollars because of you and your buddy Catherine Yelma. In that same email, he said:
“At that time my company name was EIPA Security. After few weeks of home coming I decited to change the name of the company to Ealgon Security because after this dissaster I dont like to have any part of this womans job. She had the name and logo of EIPA Security on her website even though I asked her to take it down. Thats why I change the name to Ealgon Security. There is no strange about anything regarding that.”
He went on to say in that email:
“Regarding EIPA Security in Kenya there was a person Eliud Wanjala in Mombasa who was suposed to register the company there. After few months I notice that he did not. I send him money for that but nothing happend. Thats why I close that down there. All around me are people is not trusted. I have from yesterday closed all down and will not have anything with any International Security to do anymore. I did not get any money from anyone. From me I am finishing all Security and Close Protection. This filed is not where I will be again.”
The old EIPA Kenya website (no longer there) made a big deal about how it was some super badass protection company in Kenya with connections with the Kenyan President. So, you entrusted the registration of that company to some old guy you just met and didn't notice for a few months?
I sent another email to our friend Einar on April 9, 2014 informing that I had a copy of his resumé that he had given to someone on my desk right in front of me and I was questioning a couple of things he was claiming in that resume, namely:
- He stated that he was Secretary General of the IPA. This is lie. All of the IPA (International Police Association) past General Secretaries are listed on the IPA website and go back all the way to the 1950's.
- He claimed that he worked for the U.S. Department of State at the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik, Iceland. This is a lie. I spoke to DoS, they say they have no record whatsoever of anyone named Einar Haraldsson ever working for them at that embassy or any other U.S. Embassy. I also called the U.S. Embassy in Iceland and they confirmed what DoS told me.
- He claimed he took an “IED Course” at a U.S. Embassy. This is also a lie. I knew what the answer was going to be, but I asked DoS anyway. They said this is not true.
So, all these lies on his resume. Lies about himself, lies about everything. So, when he tells me that he is not, nor has he ever been CEO of Ealgon Security Services, do I believe him? Hell no. This is what it says on his own Linkedin profile:
After I ended the pointless email discussion with Haraldsson (remember, he said that he was nothing to do with Ealgon and that he was getting out of the security industry?) within minutes, he was at it again. The Swiss Ealgon website has been taken down and they pretended to take down the .com site but in fact all they was replace the index page with a blank page and left the rest of the website intact. That means all the links to the jobs in Libya scam, like http://www.ealgon-services.com/jobs.php still work.
Like most con artists Catherine Yelma and Einar Haraldsson have huge egos and think they are smarter than everyone else and, like most con artists, in the end I expect this will be their downfall.
Why “International Web of Lies”?
The title of this article isn't just a catchy phrase designed to get your attention (although it did work) it is a truth.
Catherine Yelma and Einar Haraldsson are just two examples of small nasty little sharks in a big pond. The reality is that the security industry is permeated with hundreds of scam artists just like them – all over the world (International). If you look really hard into these people you find that they are all connected in some way at some point in time (Web). Their business is to trick you with false promises an untruths (Lies) – International Web of Lies, get it?
It is a sad fact that the very industry that is in the business of protecting people attracts the very people we need protecting from. They get away with it partly because a lot of people lower their guard when dealing with security companies as they assume “security industry”, “security company” they must be trustworthy and partly because people looking for work, especially if they have been out of work for a while or those desperate to get into the industry, tend to ignore some of the warning signs and even an article like this one that puts it right there in front of their eyes isn't enough. They will read this and think “this guy is talking shit. WCM and Ealgon have fancy websites and phone numbers to contact them on. They can't be crooks”. To those guys I say –
If it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, it ain't no Ostrich!
Confidence tricksters (con men) are called that because in order for them to be able to scam you they have to gain your confidence. They do that by putting up fancy websites full of fabricated information, stories about successes, contact phone numbers. For example the phone number on WCM Ltd's website is a Skype number that goes through to Yelma so you don't know where the hell she is. Although the number is a UK number (chosen to create confidence) she could be anywhere in the world.
They also use “Social Proof”. In situations of uncertainty people tend to look to other people in order to define reality. Scam messages that contain cues of social proof (for example, text passages that claim that other people have already reacted or benefited from the scam offer, such as fake testimonials) presumably have a higher probability of success than scams that do not include this psychological cue – as the scammers themselves appear to believe, given the content of scam communications. Many scams use fake testimonials from ‘satisfied customers' as cues of social proof.³
Only stupid or greedy people get scammed, right?
Although scams are by definition illegal and illegitimate as the ‘product' being sold is non-existent, worthless, or of little value, the way in which they are marketed has much in common with legitimate products. A successful scam involves all the standard elements of the ‘marketing mix' and the building of a relationship between marketer and customer – that is, between scammer and victim. Scams cause psychological as well as financial harm to victims. Victims not only suffer a financial loss, but also a loss of self-esteem because they blame themselves for having been so ‘stupid' to fall for the scam. It’s a popular belief that only stupid and greedy idiots fall for scams (like the ones that WCM Ltd and Ealgon stand accused of), or get scammed. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case in the real world! Being good at one thing doesn’t mean you’re good at everything, and spotting scams uses a very different set of skills than delicate surgery on a tumor, or being the world's best sniper. If you get scammed report it, don’t let pride make a mug of you! Thousands of intelligent people get scammed every day.
It only takes a short drop off of attention, being tired or in a hurry to make a misjudgment that has consequences. In fact, if anyone is ever pushing you to complete any financial transaction, like the $600 that Ealgon wants for a Libyan visa, stop and ask yourself why that is. Is it because they want to cash out before you figure it out? Also it’s not always greed that gets people scammed, often it is trust and honesty. It is easy to become a victim without matching the stereotypical image of a greedy idiot. Sure, being greedy does tempt some people to ignore their gut instincts, but you can’t always rely on instinct alone. Scam victims often have better than average background knowledge in the area of the scam content. For example, it seems that people with experience in the private security industry are more likely to fall for a scam in this area than people with less knowledge and experience in this field.³ Such knowledge can increase rather than decrease the risk of becoming a victim.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. If you have any comments about the article or if you have been scammed by the two companies mentioned or anyone else in the private security industry I want to hear about it. You can contact me, Alex T. Jones by email at [email protected] All emails are treated as confidential and I will never name you publicly without your explicit written permission.
Note: Thanks to those that responded to my initial requests for information, I have a large amount of evidence that documents criminal activity by one or more people that I investigated. I have been asked not to publish some of that evidence as it may prejudice future prosecutions of those involved. I agreed not to publish it as I believe it is in the best interests of the private security industry that I not put any prosecution of these people at risk.
- ¹ From a report by Dr Hannah Tonkin – Chatham House
- ² Source- United States Department of Defense
- ³ Source – UK Office of Fair Trading “The psychology of scams: Provoking and committing errors of judgement”
This work is Copyright© 2014 by The Firearms Portal. All Rights Reserved. You may freely publish this article in whole or in part provided that you do not claim it as your own and include a link to the Copyright owner. http://www.firearmsportal.com/investigations/455-an-international-web-of-lies – Read this article and more at the Firearms Portal – http://www.firearmsportal.com/