Roddy Boyd finds alleged Ponzi schemer

High-wire reporting on a hedge fund gone awry

With news out that New York prosecutors have charged Bryan Caisse with running a Ponzi scheme, it’s worth revisiting a fascinating piece Roddy Boyd put out last month about the erstwhile hedge-fund manager.

In that piece, Boyd reported on how Caisse’s bid to launch a hedge fund to capitalize on the mortgage crisis had flopped, ironically enough after a major investor got nervous amidst Madoff scandal. Caisse, in an increasingly desperate scramble for cash, borrowed more than a million dollars from friends and family and began making up outlandish excuses about why he couldn’t pay them back.

Refusing to quit, but with a desperate need for cash, in the spring of 2011 Caisse again turned to friends and family, except this time they were old friends; their trust in Caisse was strong but their asset base was not. When he took working capital loans from these people—unlike Dr. Tichenor and other lenders from 2008—he was taking money that represented a material part of their net worth, slated to make future mortgage payments, college tuition or their retirement.

One old friend of Caisse’s lent him a third of his life savings, which is presumably all gone.

Amidst grand-jury proceedings and a search warrant, Caisse left the country—and the teenage daughter he had custody of—but Boyd tracked him down in Medellin. Authorities finally found him in Colombia a month after Boyd’s report.

This kind of story is enough of a high-wire act when you’ve got a big media corporation and its well-paid legal team behind you. It’s something else when you don’t have all that: Boyd runs his own journalism nonprofit, the Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation.

But he had the reporting nailed down, as you can tell from his update today, where he gets details on the arrest from regulars at the Shamrock Irish Pub in Medellin:

Nothing much emerged from those plans, but Caisse took up residence in Medellin, moving into a small apartment above the Shamrock Irish Pub. Spending many of his days (and nights) drinking with the small U.S. expatriate community there, Caisse alienated several Americans, who grew weary of business plans that never materialized, playing host to him and his increasing reliance on them for loans.

So earlier this month, when Antonio Zamudio, a special agent with the Diplomatic Security Service, showed up in Medellin asking questions about Caisse’s whereabouts, there were no shortage of people hanging around the Shamrock willing to spill the beans, a rare enough occurrence in a city where visibly cooperating with law enforcement has long been a death sentence.

Caisse’s former friends at the Shamrock told Zamudio that Caisse was planning to be back in Medellin on Saturday, providing an opportunity to interdict him as he sought to board a plane in Bogota for the trip. On Saturday afternoon, at least one Shamrock regular got a text from Caisse, saying he was “delayed” in Bogota by authorities for an unspecified reason.

You just have to appreciate great reporting like this.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,