NIGERIA NUT OUTSCAMS STOX 'CROOK'
By DAREH GREGORIAN
September 19, 2008
A stone-hearted - and rock-headed - securities broker stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from elderly clients, money he then sent to Nigeria in hopes of collecting an $8.7 million inheritance from a "long-lost relative" who e-mailed him, prosecutors said yesterday.
"Yes, he fell for that scam," Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said of Tripp & Co. broker Michael Axel. "It's a classic example of a con man getting conned."
If the charges against Axel, 69, are true, he doesn't make for a very sympathetic victim of the ubiquitous and notorious Nigerian e-mail scammers.
Prosecutors said that among those he ripped off were a high school teacher and a 90-year-old woman living in a nursing home. They also believe he stole from an account shared by a mentally incompetent 83-year-old man and his daughter, who was dying of ovarian cancer.
Prosecutors said they weren't able to file criminal charges in that instance because the woman died before they could make their case - but they did charge Axel with stealing from another account the 83-year- old shared with his son.
Axel, 69, pleaded not guilty to charges of forgery and grand larceny, and was released on his own recognizance. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lewis Bart Stone ordered him to come back to court on Nov. 16 for "a possible disposition" of the case, a sure sign a plea deal is in the works.
Prosecutors said Axel's first victim was a teacher whom he started ripping off in 2002. Morgenthau said Axel had asked for checks to be cut from the teacher's account and sent to him for delivery, when no such request had been made.
He then forged the teacher's signature and deposited the checks into his own account, the DA said. He allegedly stole more than $150,000 from the man over three years.
Axel's need for cash reached a fever pitch in 2005, when he got an e-mail from a Nigerian "lawyer" concerning an $8.75 million inheritance.
Of course, the e-mail came from a spammer.
Morgenthau said Tripp & Co., which is based at Rector Street, repaid Axel's clients, and Axel has so far repaid the firm half of what he stole.