A massive swaplift

  • Posted on: 6 July 2009
  • By: MeiLin

Allegedly a BPAL.org member has swaplifted or attempted to swaplift about 100 people, which is absolutely staggering in its audacity. It may be more, since apparently she was using LiveJournal, too.

If you've arranged a swap with beneathglass, DON'T FULFILL YOUR END OF IT. If your package has already been sent, there's a post office employee who's helping folks. If you're on the BPAL.org forum, read this thread for info on how to reach him; he's managed to catch a number of packages before the alleged swaplifter could get her allegedly greasy paws on them.

For non-BPAl folks: A "swaplift" is where the bad guy sets up a swap--"You send me X, I'll send you Y"--and then keeps what you send and doesn't send her end of the swap. When this involves rares, it's really bad and really expensive. If you look at the list of reported swaplifts involving her, and you know anything about BPAL, you'll cry. This woman has allegedly gotten her allegedly greedy hands on some of the rarest of the rare BPALs, all while promising people the moon. Apparently she promised the same (possibly nonexistent) bottle of Orange, a REALLY rare Gaiman-related scent, to nine different people, for example. The chances of someone actually owning nine bottles of Orange are really, really slim, but no one knew she was doing this.

Breaks my heart to see this. Sad

Update: She was also allegedly swaplifting on LiveJournal under the name lucid_phantasm. I had the sad duty of telling a Twitter BPAL buddy that she probably got swaplifted--but she'd procrastinated! She hadn't sent the package yet! yay procrastination!

This is absolutely a crime. It's mail fraud, it's a felony, and we're headed into multiple thousands of dollars worth of stuff she (allegedly) stole.

To give you an idea of what this woman (allegedly) did, bottles of Storyville, a very rare BPAL, are going for $450 on eBay, and she swaplifted some of that. This isn't some little twiddly two-dollar bottle of crappy-smelling dime store patchouli, folks, this is serious shit. And Storyville isn't the only extremely valuable BPAL out there.

Example: Bottles of Orange were available at only one Neil Gaiman appearance, a fundraiser last year for CBLDF; tickets to the fundraiser were $500, and each attendee got one, and only one, bottle of Orange and its companion imp, Dark Chocolate. Only about 100 bottles of Orange were produced. To even get a bottle of Orange you'd have to have gone, so the base value of a bottle of Orange is $500. She claimed to have nine bottles of Orange to swap, once everyone compared notes and tallied it up. (Apparently she thought we don't talk to one another. HA!) To get nine bottles of Orange would have cost you $4500 to begin with for nine tickets. The value of a single bottle of Orange on eBay now would probably be close to $1000.

And if perchance one of you in the readership got swaplifted, go to the forum right now and send in your documentation to the Somerville PO immediately. Otherwise they'll have to release your package to this (alleged) bitch.

I think why so many BPALers are upset by this is that we are a tight-knit bunch, we are not a wealthy bunch (some of us forego any other luxury, great or small, to buy BPAL), and we are a community that operates on trust. The kindness I experienced as a BPAL newbie floored me, and the kindness I have received from other swappers and sellers remains extraordinary. It's one of the most welcoming communities I have ever belonged to--it rivals this one, and in fact, surpasses this one at times. To have someone try to wreck it pisses me off to no end, and I'm not alone. She picked on the wrong people.

Comments

Amy's picture

Supplicant

So Wrong. I have a very dear friend who lives by her BPAL shipments. I would hate to see anyone so cheated. I truly hope this person is caught by the authorities very soon.

Hey, does this count as a form of mail fraud?? Could it then become a federal offence??

Let's ask The Boy, he might know.

Mei?? May I cut & past your post to warn my friend with??

TheBoy's picture

Embodiment

(not legal advice, I'm not a lawyer, &c., &c.)

Angel It may well be a federal offense
(b) whether a federal prosecutor will take up the case is a whole separate ball of wax.

Shinjinarenai's picture

Postulant

Bwuh!

nitebane21's picture

Since money didn't trade hands, I don't think a crime has been committed. Maybe, but I don't think so. Either way, getting any authorities to care is a slim to none chance. Those that lost bottles could file a report with their local authorities and the authorities where the theft occuried. Be sure to have dollar values of the bottles. If this person was stupid, they used their real address, and the local cops might do something about it if they're nice. Otherwise, forget it. Sad to hear, but when you're talking about swapping very rare and valuable items, I'm kind of surprised this sort of thing doesn't happen more often.

TheBoy's picture

Embodiment

nitebane21 wrote:
Since money didn't trade hands, I don't think a crime has been committed. Maybe, but I don't think so. . . . . Those that lost bottles could file a report with their local authorities and the authorities where the theft occuried.[sic]

Angel you contradict yourself.
(b) I think you're right the second time.

Here's my counterexample: I convince you to send me gold jewelry, and I promise, in return to send you money. You mail me the gold. I don't send you the money. No money changed hands, and that seems like a pretty clear case of fraud to me.

Zandu Ink's picture

Embodiment

The IRS doesn't care if money changes hands, if the items that do have monetary value. You can catch a $.99 baseball at a game and not think anything of it, but the moment someone offers to pay you 3 million bucks for it, BAM! You owe the IRS taxes on 3 million bucks.

The same can be said of the bpal bottles. If rarity, and subsequently value, can be established, a crime has been committed. And if that crime takes place inmore than one state, it becomes a federal crime. AND, since it was committed through the mail, it is even more severe.

Of course, I'm even less of a lawyer than TB, but I do watch a lot of "The Practice", "Boston Legal", and all forms of "Law & Order".

TheBoy's picture

Embodiment

Thing I think but am only sorta sure of and you definitely shouldn't take as tax or legal advice:
you catch a baseball that's worth $3 million, even though (before it became #756) it cost $2, it's $3 million in tax for you right there. That's when it's income, not when you sell it.

Raigne's picture

Embodiment

Don't ever catch a baseball. :x

ETA: Addendum; let the person I'm with catch it and then hand it to me. Then it's a gift! xD

Zandu Ink's picture

Embodiment

Then you pay a gift tax. Lose/lose when the IRS is concerned.

TheBoy's picture

Embodiment

Gift tax is different...again, I only know a little bit, this is just what I believe the state of the law to be, not advice:
You don't pay income tax on gifts. Gift tax can be avoided, depending on the value.

wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estate_tax_in_the_United_States

Zandu Ink's picture

Embodiment

But what I was saying is that any other $2 baseball wouldn't cause the IRS to blink, let alone sit up and take notice. But the moment someone offers to buy it, because it's number 73, or the last one of the career, or whatever, it immediately takes on that value, whether or not you even plan to sell it. You don't pay for it when you collect on its value, you pay once the value is established. That's what makes tax law suck so badly.

This was all explained to me by my wife who did two seasons worth of income tax returns, so, while not legally binding, I'm fairly certain it's accurate.

TheBoy's picture

Embodiment

theoretically (again, not legal or tax advice):
it's taxed upon your acquisition, based on its vowel at your acquisition.
How that's determined (as you note) may be tough.
It is, however, income when you get it.
Worse: if you find $100,000 on the ground? that's income.

Zandu Ink's picture

Embodiment

I think we are using different words to describe the same scenario: regardless of the actual retail value of the ball, when you take posession of it, you are required to pay tax on the associated value that someone has placed on it.

Mark McGuire's 73rd home run ball (the case I'm basing this thread piracy on) had a retail value of $2, based on your post, before it was hit into the stands and caught. Once that happened, it became a 3 million dollar prize to the unfortunate soul who caught it, and said soul then was responsible to pay tax on that amount, whether or not he intended to sell it.

Similarly, when Oprah did her famous "Everybody gets a car!" thing, the people that took the car, rather than the cash value or turning it down altogether, were required to pay tax on its value, as well. Those that took the cash still had to pay taxes on it, but did so out of the prize. Those that took the car were stuck with a large amount of taxes owed and no money to pay it.

TheBoy's picture

Embodiment

and what's *hilarious* is if they give you the $ to pay the taxes on the car...you have to pay the taxes on the $...
it's recursive.

Zandu Ink's picture

Embodiment

IRS = lose/lose

I wish we could go back to the time when income tax as a whole was only for the wealthy. That was a status symbol I wouldn't mind missing out on.

Capriox's picture

Embodiment

Granted, that was also a time when only the wealthy had income...

MeiLin's picture

Most High

Her (alleged) boyfriend is trying to get the packages that are being held at the PO by claiming they are prescription medications and "goods for services"--that people are sending them PERFUME to pay for access to a PORN SITE.

You CANNOT make this stuff up.

Some of the swaplifts were not just across state lines; she swaplifted people from other countries, mostly Australia. I don't know if it brings any other jurisdictions in.

On LJ, this girl was actually taunting people--"what are you gonna do, call the Internet Police?"

yeah.

Raigne's picture

Embodiment

Seriously, that could be admissible in court as evidence and LiveJournal could lock her journal so she can't change what she said.

ETA: Or they could just check logs of posting access or something, but yeah. Let them in on what's happening.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

...and the LJ BPAL community is well aware of what's going on now. There's overlap between the forum and the LJ community. That's why I'm astonished anyone thought they could get away with this.

NorthwoodsMan's picture

Embodiment

She may have deleted it, but I bet LJ still has a copy on their servers, or a backup somewhere...

gjh42's picture

If this is really worthwhile evidence, is it possible for LJ to retrieve her posts? Or would they refuse to do that without a court order even if they could?

Willow's picture

Devotee

I am fortunately not caught up in the drama myself, but I understand the postal inspectors are investigating this for mail fraud. The scammer has been very bold considering that if convicted, she would spend time in federal prison. She has made no attempt to hide, and is apparently trying to scam new victims under a new LJ handle. Not very bright.

Blue Coyote's picture

Devotee

It saddens me that people are so cruel/shallow/mean. And I don't even like perfume (read as: I am allergic to just about everything).
I'm no lawyer but that surely is mail fraud, and from the huge uproar over the woman who drove a girl to suicide through Myspace I'm pretty sure that websites have to turn over any records pertaining to a crime.
I hope they get her and her boyfriend as an accessory.

Get an exclusive free ebook from the world of the Intimate History! Exclusive content, contests, new releases and more.