A Seven Year Chronicle
Puerto Rico, 2018
Puerto Rico, an amazing island for year-round fun in the sun and outdoor activities, including snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking, biking, sailing, climbing, cliff jumping and drug running. There was even a blimp-shaped UFO that hovered over a port near Mayaguez. The tax laws were fantastic too, so long as you were American and not native Puerto Rican. Puerto Rican entrepreneurs could also qualify for near-zero tax liability after moving off the island for a few years. I’m not knocking it; I was there to manage my tax liability too, while also benefitting from the ultra-low-cost of living. With a per capita income of just 25% of Mississippi, one can live comfortably on the island on just $1,000 per month. If you have money or trade for a living, Puerto Rico is a heaven on earth: 0% capital gains tax, 0% interest income tax, 0% dividend tax and a 4% corporate tax rate — all without IRS liability. If you’re an entrepreneur or an asset manager, this is the place to be.
Upon return to the island in late January 2018, with the first visit being a scouting mission, I boarded a puddle jumper to the other side of the island en route to Rincon. San Juan reminded me of Detroit, but without the sports teams. With just a $1,000 monthly budget, I also couldn’t afford to live on the beach in San Juan. If you can’t live on the beach in the Caribbean, what’s the point of being there? Rincon, on the other hand, was far more affordable. Luckily for me, a beachfront place at an offered rate of $650/mo was too good to pass up.
Undercover Housemate: “Tommy”
“Tommy” was kind enough to move in with the neighbors while I stayed. I really liked these guys so I’ll say little about them other than this: if you want to maintain your cover, don’t get cute with your email address, even if your Military Occupational Specialty matches your birthday. It might also help if your neighbor didn’t have an Air Force tattoo and sticker on his jeep. Somewhere around mid-year, I started a “Read Me” journal on my computer. In my enthusiasm to work with the perfect organization for my nature-backed currency, I errantly approved legal access to my computer for the next three years via unilateral NDA. I knew they were reading everything, so I vented my frustration through the journal. It was through this journal that I disclosed my MOS discovery in a bout of frustration and angst. Tommy departed the island shortly thereafter. My bad, bro. I didn’t mean to get you. Unfortunately, my Read Me Journal is no longer in my possession. I imagine the government has it though. It’s on the desktop of the hard drive that was stolen from my computer in my last month on the island. That’s the raw juice, but it’s not a good side of me. My frustration and cockiness really comes through unfiltered.
I absolutely loved living in PR. Even with the ridiculous inquiries and lures to fend off, which were so frequent that I could fill a book, it was still one of the best years of my life. I expect very little will match spending every moment with the sound of the waves. With that said, I’ll provide a few highlights.
My business partner, “Mark,” is an environmental biologist and became interested in crypto investing about the same time as I began trading the market in the latter part of 2017. We worked together via Zoom and phone to develop the nature-backed currency and apply to a number of accelerators. She had raised roughly $500,000 in grants for her business and assured me that the work we created together was the best work she had done and that we were sure to win funding. I was skeptical, for obvious reasons. In our application to a non-profit nature-based incubator, we didn’t even receive an interview even though the program was tailor-made for nature-backed investment concepts. Throughout the time that we worked together, we had difficulty with text and phone communication. This was another scenario in which you know something is wrong, but it’s difficult to place blame or prove the issue.
At the aforementioned economic development conference, which I was invited to attend and present Earth Loans, I met a group of people who I believed to be my kind of people. Risk-takers, if not outright rule breakers, I was enthralled with a presentation on managing a farming operation. They generally befriended me and invited me to participate without pay in their ultra-early stage ventures, which I considered to be a continuation of the distract and delay tactics from 2017. I declined at every approach. One woman claimed to be a fund manager without knowing much about managing funds. She sent me a Chinese and Mexican NDA with the promise of meeting influential people. Apparently, she didn’t know that I believed that if they were influential then they were part of the problem. I returned a standard Delaware NDA instead. After a bit of back and forth in which she challenged my interpretation of the law, she finally relented. I wasn’t a fan of my American masters, but I’d rather stick with the devil I knew than the devil I didn’t. Besides, once a Marine, always a Marine. I’ll be damned if I’m forced to leave my country. Over my dead body.
Another attempt to recruit me occurred in September as part of the planning for another development summit. Again, the offer was less than compelling: long hours, little pay, and no formal employment agreement for an early-stage venture at the expense of my time and focus on Earth Loans, to which I had now devoted the last four years of my life. I was pot committed and not turning back for any reason. At this point, it was a matter of principle. I worked a day of consulting, enough to substantiate the payment of about $100, and returned to Rincon. Whether their human resources challenges were real or made up was of little concern to me. They were their issues, not mine.
Learning Point #15: Stay Focused on Your Objective
Part of the distract and delay routine is to draw you in with drama, emotion or greed. Any sort will do. Don’t fall for it. The drama is not your issue and it’s likely a deception anyway. Stay focused on your objective. Always consider what you must give in terms of your time, energy and resources to place focus anywhere other than your main effort.
Entrapment: Money Laundering
When the recruitment effort failed, “John” invited me to attend another conference where he introduced me to a number of players on the island. One of the local players took an interest in my work. Looking back, I’m disappointed to admit that I yet again was hopeful that “Giancarlo” might have been a potential legitimate investor lead. We set up a call. He sounded hesitant as if someone were coaching him from the other side of the line. It was a casual conversation, at first, which is part of the routine. Get your target to lower their defenses. Then he dropped the hammer, I could do nothing without the powerful families on the island who Giancarlo would introduce me to, provided that I was willing to accept their black-market money. I was beside myself in frustration. Money laundering lures were frequent during my stay in Puerto Rico. As a licensed Investment Advisor who was intent on offering planet-friendly investments for the general public, I had no intention of doing anything to jeopardize that. Moreover, it is mind-boggling that one would be blocked from creating a planet-friendly investment platform. How backward is that?
In a similar situation, I worked with a colleague to price out a solar development for a condominium complex. The complex President expressed his desire to move forward with the proposal. Naturally, as has been the case in every other entrepreneurial endeavor since leaving the Marine Corps, my solar installer refused to provide a quote or return my phone calls. He straight-up turned down a sale. When I cold dropped into their office to mention the issue to the CFO, it was evident that this was another obstruction routine. It was now very clear to me that my challenges to get the business going had nothing to do with oil and everything to do with me. Someone was communicating to everyone I contacted that I was to be led on but not allowed to follow through.
Not to be discouraged, I adjusted my strategy and sought to launch a “Solar Bear” stuffed animal to raise awareness for the loss of polar bear habitat due to fossil fuel use, which solar could offset in Puerto Rico. I found the perfect textile provider and Taiwan-based manufacturer to handle my organic and fully bio-degradable Solar Bear. Similar to a Care Bear, my Solar Bear would have a solar panel patch on the belly with a ray of sunshine and electricity. The first call to the manufacturer went wonderfully. She arranged for a conversation with the owner for the following day. This woman talked for three hours about her better years as an environmental activist. Distract and delay again. I’ll never get that time back. She politely told me that they could not fulfill my order in time, directly contradicting the information I had received the day prior from her assistant.
A business school friend, “Tulip,” was manufacturing a doll and connected me to her manufacturer. He promptly replied except I didn’t receive the email. Knowing that Tulip is on top of her business and good for her word, I followed up. She forwarded the email that she had been copied on, which was addressed to me. After years of suspicion, I now had verifiable proof that the government was intercepting my communications.
See the follow-up and response emails below:
At this point, I delayed default on my bills for too long hoping that I could trade my way out of it, which I nearly did. For a period of about four months, from February to June, I traded roughly 25% per month in the foreign exchange market. However, like when I raced my brother straight down a black diamond as a teen for the thrill of it, the moment I thought of the danger is precisely when I wiped out on the hill. Likewise, the moment I considered that I couldn’t possibly trade 25% per month is when I took a substantial hit to my trading account, which proved too much to recover. This put me in quite a predicament. I slashed every expense I could, including yoga, which is up there with food and shelter for me, and turned to Airbnb for just enough income to maintain the ocean-front apartment. When I had a guest, I camped on the beach. Yet another reason why Puerto Rico is the place to be — even when you’re homeless, you’re still beachfront.
At about the same time, random people would engage me in my business, crypto, and whether I had participated in ICOs. I eventually realized that this was a ploy to assess me for tax evasion. Now, this was getting really exciting. It didn’t help that along with my bills, I also fell behind on my taxes. I didn’t care how bad it got, I wasn’t giving in. Instead, I’d use my vulnerability as a weapon of non-violence. I was more than educated and experienced enough to run my own business and I would settle for nothing less, especially knowing that the government intended to break me.
I am no man’s slave.
But I was going bankrupt in a hurry and even made a few phone calls to bankruptcy attorneys. About the same time, I began negotiations on sales opportunities with two of the leading crypto custodians which I had been in touch with for months as part of my research into launching a legal crypto offering for my (apparently evil) carbon-free heating loans. Both companies expressed interest in retaining my services more or less out of nowhere. There was a catch. Neither was willing to pay for my time. Commission-only. Another distract and delay — and the contract specifically mentioned the ability to withhold pay if I declared bankruptcy. Mother scratchers. I should have expected the ruse. Months earlier, while vetting custodial partners for my crypto raise, we scheduled a follow-up call for just after his call with the SEC. The follow up didn’t go well. He told me in an abrupt tone that I was “just trying to get away with stuff,” refused to work with me and ended the call. My superior officers labeled me the same way, with the exact language, prior to my separation. Six years later and the same bad evaluation still haunted me.
Needing work and not finding willing employers on the island — my beat up beach rider wouldn’t suffice for Uber — I returned to Michigan for a seasonal job at UPS with the aim of covering expenses for all of 2019 at $1,000 per month. Even this, it turned out, was another surveillance routine. The government knew everything, how much I was making, hours worked, everything, and disclosed as much in a refreshingly candid albeit intimidating conversation. My temporary colleagues tested me for submitting to peer pressure with comments about cutting corners on a delivery, which I was tempted to do. Instead, I opted to ask my supervisor for feedback about the policy. He assured me that nothing had changed and I was able to ignore the distractions. On another occasion, a full-time employee betrayed himself with a look of disgust that quickly changed as he realized I had noticed. This happened quite a bit. I never did learn of the lies they told about my character. All I knew is that they were cowards for not addressing me in person. To know me is to like me. I’m an easy-going, friendly guy who can be a bit unyielding in certain circumstances, but that generally does not involve friends.
UPS cut the temporary crew early. I returned to Puerto Rico in January of 2019 with less than $1,000 to my name, approximately one month of expenses. January and February proved to be the most challenging months of my life. It started with a glimmer of hope, an invitation to attend a startup program in Buffalo, and quickly turned for the worse with the theft of my computer. Without a computer, I couldn’t work, no trading and no sales or business development work of any kind. I began to take more bookings on Airbnb, but many of my tenants started leaving negative feedback or no feedback at all and damaging the property. This hampered my sole remaining source of income. Completely broke and with few options, I slowly started running out of money. My backup MREs, which I had purchased in the event that we suffered another hurricane, became my primary meal source. At one point, I broke down at the sweet taste of an apple. It was the best damn apple I have ever eaten. That’s why I keep apples in my car for the homeless. I know what it’s like to be hungry and it’s not fun. At this point, my will was breaking down. I became an emotional wreck. Person after person knew that I was headed to Buffalo and every time they blew their cover, I silently exploded inside at what seemed from my perspective to be wretched incompetence and an inability to conduct a proper investigation. They were slowly destroying my life.
Another friend arrived at about the same time. “Mary” and I met outside one of the local bars in Rincon. She proved to be quite adept at helping me to work through the psychological and emotional trauma that I had developed over the past seven years. She was a miracle worker. Anyone willing to take on the pain that I had internalized for those years is no less than a saint. It was overwhelming. I alternated between rage and tears, seemingly every day of our nearly two weeks together. The more we talked the deeper we went and the more we identified another layer that needed addressing. I will forever be thankful for her friendship and the work that she put in on my behalf.
About the same time, I became acquainted with two homeless men, one of whom, “Greco,” was responsible for returning my journal and leather satchel computer bag. The computer was gone, but at least I had the bag. It was one of my favorite items, a thrift store purchase with character and depth. Both “Greco” and “Paul” appeared to be more intelligent and articulate than the vast majority of their traditional counterparts. We began sharing meals together. A dollar buys a can of pre-cooked beans. Paul was easily Mensa-level and way over my head. Greco was a masterful, brilliant storyteller. He told me about his gardening, how he worked with the plants, and how the plants worked with him.
One night, after a convenience mart dinner with Greco, I returned to my place for a call with a close friend. Later that night, around 4am, I awoke to a car playing “Be Happy” on my street. A bit startled, I noticed that the shadows on the ceiling were moving. The next morning, the shadows were still. I noticed a metallic taste in my mouth and a wicked headache. As I got up for my morning run and pull up workout at the track, I found that I couldn’t stop crying. Having previously read about ayahuasca, I recognized the side effects. I had been drugged. A little confused and a lot upset, I resolved to run and pull on that bar until the effects subsided. Sweating it out seemed like all I could do. After my workout, I joined a group workout to continue to push through. External focus. Keep it together. You’ve got this. Focus. Throughout that day, I noticed people looking at me incredulously, as though I were a crazy man.
A Few Hours Until the Guillotine
Mark brought a replacement computer for me to use in my last couple of weeks on the island. Each day seemed to bring with it mounting pressure. I felt one more entrapment ploy coming on in an attempt to coerce me to share whatever classified information that I purportedly possessed. Not knowing what to do while sensing that I would soon be arrested, I rose at 3am to type my thoughts. If I was going down, I would go down swinging with my Marine Corps issued knife at my side and my computer in my lap. Three hours later, at the prompt of a coded message, “You’ve only got a few hours until the guillotine,” delivered through Suspicious Observers on my daily solar weather report, I was convinced of the urgency of the situation. The sun had risen and police boats zipped past my home in what appeared to be preparation for a raid. I hurried to finish editing and click submit. Hijacking America: Part I was now online. No raid came. They must have expected something else. As I wrote in my post, your eyes and ears will deceive you. If you believe that you see a criminal, you’ll see a criminal even if he has committed no crime. While I advise profiling, take care to maintain your objectivity or it may come back to bite you in the form of millions of taxpayer dollars wasted.
In one of my last nights on the island, another close friend and I joined a group for a game of Secret Hitler. The objective for the Liberals was to identify the Fascists, expose them and throw them out. From a Fascist perspective, they sought to confuse the Liberals into fighting amongst themselves. Although the Fascists in the game are granted certain advantages, the Liberals have the power of truth on their side. In every game, with lively open debate, the Liberals succeeded in routing the Fascists. To me, this is a telling experience as we weigh our current political situation in America. As I wrote in Hijacking America: Part I, the Compartmentalized Security Clearance system serves to hinder open debate, hiding the truth behind “protective layers,” as Neil Armstrong called them. If liberty, democracy, and America is to survive, we must peel back those layers and expose truth to the world and the world to truth. Only through truth can we progress as a people. The alternative is nothing short of slavery.
As odd and, at times, unsettling as my experience was in Puerto Rico, I feel like I have genuine friends there and I miss it. There’s a good group of guys developing a Maker Space in Rincon, a friend in Old San Juan, a group of women putting in good work in the organic gardening space, a spiritual and welcoming yoga scene, local music, an excellent vibe, and a fantastic hiking group. April is my favorite month in Puerto Rico. It’s just a good time to be there. When it was time to sell my belongings to move to Buffalo, my items moved quickly, and I am deeply appreciative of it. When it’s all said and done, we will leave our possessions behind; only our memories of family, friends, and experiences will remain. While the last seven years were a brutal period for me, I am grateful for them because without that experience I would still be reading about becoming a humble servant rather than doing the work to become one.
If you’ve read this far, thank you for caring. You have my love and dedication.
Learning Point #16: Every Man has a Breaking Point
At every step of my journey, I felt as though I was about to break. Exercise, diet, proper rest, yoga, meditation, journaling and especially the love of people who cared for me kept me going. Never give up. If all you can do is put one foot in front of the other, do that. Never quit. To my family, the guys from home and a few select others, thank you for your love and support. Even when nothing made sense, you never abandoned me. I wouldn’t be here without you. Thank you.
Learning Point #17: Knowledge of Self is a Weapon
For those of you reading this from a different point of view, if I am to choose a single lesson from the many, it would be this: know thyself and use your knowledge of self against your enemies. Be dumber than your mark, but not obviously so. Stick with your natural persona and use it to your advantage with statements and questions that elicit a telling response. In doing so, you will learn more than you ever could through lies and deception.
Truth is the ultimate weapon.
This was the most difficult writing I’ve ever attempted. Thinking through these events was akin to reliving them, eliciting an emotional response. I clearly have much work left to do. Thank you to those of you who stayed with me, who helped me through, and especially to those of you who helped to close this chapter of my life.
In producing this report, I aimed to protect the identities of those involved to the best of my ability. Any omissions in this report are made with the idea of their protection in mind.
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