Tuesday

31st Mar 2020

Feature

US retiree, scammed by former EU official, awaits justice

  • Regina Hayes (l) and Mike Brady in South Carolina in December 2019 (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)

Regina L. Hayes navigates her electric scooter down a long, narrow hallway at the Pacifica Skylyn Senior Living nursing home in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in the US.

She turns into a large living area, continues into a small adjoining library, and carefully takes a seat at a wooden desk.

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Moments later, she begins to tell the story of how she lost her life savings in an elaborate scam that links back to a former EU commissioner from Malta and an American international fraudster with a fake Filipino passport.

Suffering from poor health, Hayes, who is currently 74 years old, moved into Pacifica Skylyn Senior Living last September after having had to sell her house in a small town just outside Spartanburg.

Living alone with her dog Pepper at the time, whom she had to give away, Hayes still dreams of one day taking a cruise on her preferred Royal Caribbean liner should Maltese authorities ever recover the $75,000 (€68,000) she lost in a Ponzi-like scheme some eight years ago.

"I was living home alone with my little dog and right now if I had that money I could have someone come over and walk my dog so that I could keep the dog with me but I have had to give my dog up," she said in a telephone interview following this reporter's visit to her nursing home on 21 December 2019.

Pacifica Skylyn Senior Living is charging her $1,700 a month for its services, said Hayes.

"It is horrible. It is horrible. I hate it," she also said, when asked about the living conditions.

"I would love to be back in my house, but my house is gone now. There are so many problems with this nursing home - like when it rains, the ceiling falls in, and they've got to put buckets out," she added.

The Malta connection

The scam that ensnared Hayes was first reported by assassinated journalist Daphne Caurana Galizia, implicating John Dalli, who was at the time the European commissioner for health, as well as Dalli's two daughters.

Allegedly led by international fraudster Marie Eloise Corbyn Klein, it targetted American Christians who were duped into handing over their retirement funds as a lump sum for a gold pool-investment scheme, which had promised a 10 percent annual return on top of yearly bonuses.

Some had placed the money out of fear the US government under Barack Obama at the time was going to collapse and as part of a wider Tea Party resistance movement with links to the Republic for the United States of America, a sovereign citizen group, which had erected a parallel government in opposition to the Washington elite.

Mike Brady (pictured) who had founded the Tea Party branch in South Carolina had been introduced to Corbyn Klein through a fellow Tea Party member named Debbie Wicker.

Brady told EUobserver that Wicker had floated a plan to help finance the republic by re-evaluating billions of purchased Iraqi dinars with help from Klein, who was also called Lady Bird and Mary Swan among many other aliases.

Purchased at rock-bottom prices, the plan entailed reevaluating the dinars for a large profit once the country stabilised. But it never happened.

"Lady Bird told me and Debbie if we could get Iraqi dinars there, John Dalli would secure them so that we wouldn't have to worry about it. She said they had a massive safe [in Malta]," said Brady.

At least eight others from South Carolina, and possibly many more, also wired their funds into an HSBC account linked to Tyre Ltd and Corporate Group Ltd.

Both firms had been registered to Dalli's address in Malta and were run to varying degrees by Claire Gauci Borda and, on paper, by Louise Dalli, with Debbie Wicker acting as a go-between with the duped Christian investors.

Among them was Janie B. Moore, who had raised the alarm of a possible scam after receiving a link to a blog post by Daphne Caurana Galizia.

The blog post, first published in 2013, had provided lurid details of scams reportedly committed by Marie Eloise Corbyn Klein, her numerous bogus identities, a picture of a fake passport, and her ties to John Dalli.

The story had also been picked up by the New York Times, which revealed, in mid-2013, that Dalli had travelled at least twice to the Bahamas in 2012.

In one photo, later published, Dalli is seen sitting with Marie Eloise Corbyn Klein and his daughter Louise at a villa on the Caribbean islands rented out to Tyre Ltd in Claire Gauci Borda's name for $8,000 a month.

Money laundering charges

Dalli, who was forced to resign as European commissioner in late 2012 over a separate scandal involving tobacco lobbying, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the affair and claimed it was "an intentional dishonest distortion and invention" to smear his name.

But criminal charges were eventually filed against his two daughters, along with Marie Eloise Corbyn Klein and three other people, in Malta in late 2017.

Gauci Borda was charged separately with breaching Malta's money laundering and financing of terrorism act.

All had been accused of money laundering, misappropriation of funds, fraud, making a false declaration to a public authority and the falsification and use of documents.

The proceedings have stalled, in part, because Marie Eloise Corbyn Klein (aka Mary Swan, Lady Bird etc.,) has failed to show up at court due to mobility problems.

But for Hayes, who still manages to get around on her electric scooter and rollator at the Pacifica Skylyn Senior Living nursing home, such excuses fall flat and the battle for justice goes on.

"I've had nine near death experiences. You can't keep this ole girl down," she said, in a follow up email, noting that she had recently suffered a heart attack.

Investigation

Part I: From Peppi’s to Barroso’s

Part I of VIII: EUobserver takes a closer look at the Barroso commission's biggest scandal - tobacco lobbying and John Dalli - in events some say will haunt the EU "for the next 10 years".

Investigation

Part II: Malta's 'Mr Teflon'

Part II of VIII: Prince William peers out of a black stretched luxury car as the vehicle turns down a street in Malta’s capital city, Valletta.

Investigation

Part III: Actors assemble for EU melodrama

The new EU health commissioner’s first known contact with a tobacco lobbyist was on 20 August 2010 at the five-star Kempinski Hotel on the Maltese island of Gozo.

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