Erich Kofmel / SCIS
(Sussex Centre for the Individual & Society [DISSOLVED])
Frauds Information

 

UK - Erich Kofmel is on the run from the police after he failed to answer bail on 9th September 2008, following his arrest in May 2008. In June 2009, the CPS decided they have sufficient evidence to charge Mr. Kofmel and he is officially "wanted" in the UK - If you know of his whereabouts contact Sussex Police and quote reference ES1/437/08

Germany -  Contact Polizei Hamburg and quote reference Aktenzeichen 3201 Js 140/07

Switzerland - Staatsanwaltschaft (Public Prosecutor), Postfach 8026 Zürich

Other countries : For contacts  / crime references in Austria, Spain, Switzerland & INTERPOL / USA (FBI/IC3: I0808231147141141) other counties please contact us.

Photo: from Sussex Police, from May 2008 arrest at London School of Economicsblogger web statistics

 



Click HERE for recent developments since October 2009 at the new blog

Erich Kofmel / SCIS in the press


The Evening Standard Newspaper, January 31 2006

The Observer Newspaper, January 22 2006

Times Higher Education, 14th Augus 2008


The Argus Newspaper, 29th August 2008

The Argus Newspaper, 11 September 2008 (PDF Reprint)

The Argus Newspaper; 13th September 2008 (PDF Reprint)

The Badger Newspaper, October 6th 2008

20minuten (German - the leading Swiss daily), 12th December 2008 (PDF reprint)

The Argus Newspaper, 16th December 2008

The Badger Newspaper, 19th January 2009

The Argus Newspaper, 21st February 2009 (PDF Reprint)


Times Higher Education, 5th March 2009
 
The Badger Newspaper, 16th March 2009


 
The Argus Newspaper, 6th April 2009 (PDF Reprint) 

The Argus Newspaper, 2nd July 2009 (PDF Reprint)

 The Argus Newspaper,6th August 2009 (PDF Reprint)

Times Higher Education, 8th August 2009 & 13th August 2009


BBC Press Release, 7th October 2009

BBC News, 7th October 2009


[BBC 1 South; 12.10.09 19:30]

 
 For a complete list of press articles, see the new blog

 
Recent Developments

We have moved the recent developments section to a dedicated blog at http://kofmel.blogspot.com/ to facilitate the web broadcast of the BBC TV Documentary about Mr. Kofmel to those outside the UK.  

 
 


Detailed Descriptions of the Erich Kofmel Frauds

Background to Mr. Erich Kofmel

Erich Kofmel was born on 21st October 1974 (Source: Companies House) in the small town of Deitingen[source] in Switzerland.

Kofmel was first in the bankruptcy court in Switzerland when he was only 21 years old following the collapse of Methosource Treuhand- und Revisions-AG[source](formerly trading as Gemeindebüro Treuhand AG[source]). Several years later he was again in the bankruptcy court with his company Kaos-anti-Genesis GmbH (which was previously trading as Gemeindebüro Einkaufsgruppe für Gemeinden GmbH). Kofmel has also been through the swiss courts requiring Debt Enforcement Orders to repay his debts [source].


[Source: The Argus; 13/9/08]

He read theology at the University of Fribourg, and subsequently studied Public and Development Management at the University of the Witwatersrand and theology at St Augustine College of South Africa[source]. He was a PhD student at the University of Sussex and on placement at Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po, Paris). Mr. Pascal Cauchy, The Director of Doctoral Studies at the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris confirmed on October 14th 2008 that they had now permanently excluded Kofmel from their University. Kofmel was permanently excluded from Sussex University in August 2009. He is currently under investigation at ETH Zurich University (see press section above for sources)

[Source: Moneyhouse Website]

Mr. Kofmel is alleged to have been involved in a number of various scams and frauds and other criminal offences, described herein,  including:

  1. The 2006-2008 Vacation Property Rental Frauds
  2. The 2006 Reference Property Checking Scams
  3. Concerns about the Sussex Centre for the Individual and Society 
          • Misleading address scam
          • Bankruptcy concealing scam
          • Misleading "advisory board" scam
          • Concerns over company records
  4. 2004 - 2008 fake identity theft scam
  5. French cheque frauds, breaking & entering a property (and injuring a police officer)
  6. Offence of failure to answer bail with UK police

The Vacation Property Rental Frauds [2006 - current]

Description of the Vacation Rental frauds

Erich Kofmel is alleged to have placed fraudulent adverts for vacation properties that did not exist. He used multiple sites including craiglist.com, www.inkiti.co.uk, www.evelez.net, londonpbb.com, www.livetray.com , www.better-holidays.com,www.holidayhomeonline.com,http://www.ferienhausmiete.de. There are many more. The advert will be for a rental / let property, typically with payment by the day or week. It will be a nice looking property at or below the market rate. Typically. the only contact detail will be an email address (or a phone number that doesn't work, or a taxi firm ect). The email address will most likely be hotmail or yahoo,though since June 2008 he has started to use gmail

[Source: Sample advert for fake property on holidayhomeonline.com]

The properties could be anywhere in the world - we have seen adverts for fake properties in London, Rome, New York, Lazio, Paris, Mallorca and other cities all around the world. A sample advert is here. The fraudster has used email addresses including:

shortterms@gmail.com, shortterms@hotmail.com, shortterm@live.com, incontro2005@hotmail.com, hols4you@hotmail.com, your-holidays-2007@hotmail.co.uk, holiday-lettings@hotmail.com, apartment_london@yahoo.com, eric.kofmel@virtualpost.ch,shortterm@hotmail.com

If you are a victim you will have conversed with the fraudster by email. He will promptly reply to your emails. He speaks fluent English, German & French. His grammar is excellent and he is clearly highly educated. He will ask you to confirm your start and end date. He may provide other helpful information and you will probably have a good feeling about the transaction - this is a well spoken, educated and helpful person. If you are local you may ask to visit the property - he will refuse stating that it is a "vacation rental".

When the fraudster is travelling away from home (i.e. when he attending academic conferences), he may even be kind enough to tell you "Please note that I will have limited Internet connectivity". 
Mr. Erich Kofmel is alleged to have used miss-spellings of his own name including Eric Kofmel, Eric Kofmehl, Eric H. Kofmehl. The bank accounts he used to receive the funds he had set up mostly locally in Sussex / Brighton (we have identified 7 UK accounts). The addresses he used were false - a wedding photographer, a restaurant and a taxi rank.


Once Mr. Kofmel has your funds, he will send you an apparent booking confirmation (see image right and below). Note in the properties of the document or advanced properties (last saved by) theAuthor or LAST SAVED BY (Zuletztz gespeichert von) is frequently listed as "Erich Kofmel". In frauds done after March 2008, when Mr. Kofmel had been alerted to this, he deliberately inserted the author name of a former University colleague.

The booking confirmation will include a fake mailing and a fake telephone phone number. When asked about phoning him he has responded to multiple victims "My phone number is ++44 7931 588 634. Sorry, if I don't pick up (work related). I prefer e-mail."

Shortly before you are due to arrive at your destination, and long after your funds have cleared, the fraudster may then appear to "cancel" the booking. He has repeatedly given the excuse of an unwell neighbour unable to give the keys (at many different fake postal addresses). That is where the correspondence will end. He will not provide a refund nor answer any correspondence. Shortly thereafter, the email address will no longer exist.



TEXT OF REASON USED TO CANCEL BOOKINGS

"Die Nachbarin, die Sie treffen sollte, hat seit einiger Zeit über Unwohlsein geklagt und ist gestern ins Krankenhaus eingeliefert worden. Sie wird auf unbestimmte Zeit nicht in der Lage sein, sich um die Wohnung und meine Gäste zu kümmern." [German Version]
"The neighbour who was supposed to be meeting you has complained for some time that she was not feeling well. Yesterday, she was hospitalized. She will for some time not be able to take care of my guests or the apartment." [English Version]

We have recently (9/7/08) become aware of another variant of the fraud where Mr. Kofmel cancels as short notice due to essential maintenance of the vacation property.... promised returned cheques do not materialise.

"LeidergibteseinProblemmitderWohnungdasich hier von der Ferne aus versucht habe zu lösen. Ich hatte gehofft, dafür noch einen Ausweg zu finden, aber glaube, dass uns nun die Zeit davonläuft.Die Wohnung, die ich vermiete, ist eine von vier im selben Gebäude und alle gehören verschiedenen Eigentümern.Ich bin letzte Woche von derManagement-Gesellschaft informiert worden, dass Arbeiten an den Wasser- und Lüftungs-Anlagen des Gebäudes für den Zeitraum vom x bis x x geplant sind.Dies würde Ihren Aufenthalt stark beeinträchtigen (z. B. Wasserversorgung und Airconditioning werden nicht funktionieren).Ich halte es deshalb nun für das beste, Ihre Buchung zu annulieren und hoffe, es wird Ihnen möglich sein, noch rechtzeitig eine andere Unterkunft zu finden.Ich werde einen Scheck über die erhaltene Vorauszahlung an Ihre Adresse senden.[German Version of variant fraud]


We know there are victims in the UK, USA, France, Austria, Spain, Germany, Canada and the USA, and growing at a rapid rate. 

HOW CAN YOU HELP

If you are a victim, we need to hear from you. Please do not alter your emails with Mr. Kofmel in any way, simply follow the following simple advice:

  • If you have not already done so, report this matter to your local POLICE (see crime references at top of page)
  • Obtain a CRIME REFERENCE NUMBER and ask for a named contact, direct dial telephone number and email address. You may need to insist that the matter is recorded as a crime. 
  • It is imperative you retain the original emails (even after saving / forwarding)
Please send a separate covering email to victimsoferich@gmail.com indicating:
  • your  CRIME REFERENCE NUMBER, the law enforcement named contact, direct dial telephone number
  • We will share all the crime references and any information forwarded with any legitimate crime enforcement authority who requests it

 

Arrest & Release on Bail 

Erich Kofmel was arrested, on suspicion of Fraud (in relation to the 2006-2008 Vacation Rental Frauds), by the Economic Crime Unit (Fraud) of Sussex Police at approximately 17:00hrs 7th May 2008 [source][source]. Kofmel was due to give a lecture at 17:30 entitled "Comparative Political Theology " at the London School of Economics. Kofmel was arrested on his way to the lecture which was subsequently canceled [source][Source: Sussex Police Spokesperson]. He was release on police bail to re-appear at Sussex Police station on 9th September 2008. As of November 2008, he is now officially "WANTED" by the United Kingdom police.

If you are a new victim of these frauds, or know of Erich Kofmel's whereabouts, contact the Economic Crime Unit (Fraud) of Sussex Police via their main switchboard quoting Crime Reference ES1/437/08.

Victims from North America are advised to contact the FBI and quote reference FBI/IC3 reference: I0808231147141141 to link with cases of other known USA victims.

For law enforcement contacts & crime references in Germany, France, Austria, Spain & INTERPOL please contact us at victimsoferich@gmail.com 

Continuation of vacation rental fraud AFTER UK police arrest 

Quite remarkably, we have seen unequivocal evidence that Mr. Erich Kofmel has continued the frauds even after his arrest in the UK on May 7th 2008. Following a string of emails (with money transfers linked to known Kofmel bank accounts - so it had to be him), Kofmel is stupid enough to continue the fraud using the same (verbatim) lies he used in the frauds that led up to his arrest. Here is an example from June 16th 2008 - some 6 weeks following his arrest at London School of Economics. 

[Souce: Email sent to victim; some information redacted to protect identity of victim]

Mr. Erich Kofmel reference checking property scam [2006] 

Controversy about Kofmel erupted in 2006 from a completely different property scam in early 2006. The Observer Newspaper (UK, January 22 2006)[source] and later the Evening Standard Newspaper (UK, January 31 2006)[source] reported that Kofmel had allegedly "ripped off" prospective tenants after placing adverts on internet property websites at or below market rates. Kofmel was alleged to have taken about 900 pounds from each prospective tenant as a deposit subject to "reference checking", when it was claimed he had no intention of accepting them. He would then decline to accept them, taking up to 800 pounds as a fee for "reference checking". Legal experts from the respective publications described the episode as "highly suspicious legally "[source] and a "rip off" [source]. The so-called "scam" was reported widely on the internet[source],[source].

One of his victims predicted "He has probably ripped off so many more people" [source] which proved to be chillingly accurate. Kofmel responded to the newspaper articles - "There has been neither a 'scam' nor a 'scandal' and neither a police investigation nor legal proceedings of any kind." [source].

Sussex Centre for the Individual and Society - False Address Scam

Mr. Kofmel set up the so-called "SCIS" whilst we was residing in private rented accommodation on campus at the University of Sussex. Indeed at that time the University of Sussex had to make it clear to theBBC that "The SCIS .... is not an officially recognised research centre at the university, nor does it have a formal base on campus.". [Source]

Mr. Kofmel moved out of his private accommodation around April 2007 and informed Companies House of this on 30th April 2007.

Kofmel continues to use this address on his websites and other adverts. Indeed several internationally acclaimed academics assumed that SCIS was part of the University of Sussex (which it is not) stating for example "believing that the centre ..... integral part of the University of Sussex. This turned out not to be the case" and in another case "assumed [SCIS] was a Sussex University entity". 

Others leading academics have complained that Kofmel has refused to take their names of his various websites [source] including Professor Michael Watts (University of California, Berkeley), who is listed as a member of the "international advisory board (2006-08)". He said: "(Mr Kofmel) still insists on using my name on the website despite repeated requests not to do so." [source]. Professor Watts first requested his name to be removed more than 1 year ago.

Leading academic newspaper Times Higher Education [source] quoted the University of Sussex as saying "The SCIS is not associated with the university in any way, and it is not based on our campus. We have already pointed out that the SCIS's currently advertised postal address is untrue and misleading and have requested correction. This has not yet happened, but we are determined that it must, and are considering next steps." 

SCIS funding and bankruptcy concealing scam

Kofmel made it quite clear that the aim of SCIS was to seek "funding from wealthy individuals"[source]. On 9th November 2006 he set up a a "high-tech spin-off" SCIS Technology Ltd. Kofmel claimed the company would engage in "R & D on nat sciences & engineering" (Source: Companies House), fields in which he had no demonstrable expertise. The following days, 11th November 2006, he invited "venture capital" or an "unsecured commercial loan"[source] and claimed the scope of the activities of the centre included "artificial intelligence, genetics, environmental sciences, and informatics" [source]. Again, Kofmel has no no demonstrable expertise in any of these fields.

In the CV Kofmel created for potential investors (on 20th November 2006), Kofmel again miss-speltthe name of his previous insolvent company "Gemeindebüro Treuhand AG" as "Gemeinebüro Treuhand AG" [source - original now removed by Mr. Kofmel from the website][Source: Google cache of same][Source: CVErichKofmel.pdf][source] thus concealing his past as a repeated bankrupt. This miss-spelling is highly significant because it was done in the identical manner to the property rental frauds for which Kofmel was arrested in May 2008 - by omitting a single letter. The reason for both of those miss-spellings is that at the times the crimes were being committed, a google search for the miss-spelling did not reveal the information already about Mr. Kofmel in the public domain.

SCIS co-founder & academia break silence about scams

In a highly significant development, the co-founder of SCIS and major shareholder of SCIS Technology spoke out in public about the shenanigans of Erich Kofmel [source]. Alexander Higgins resigned from his directorships of SCIS and SCIS Tech in late 2006 [source: Companies House] amid concerns of Mr. Kofmel's probity, but remains a major shareholder of the latter. He asked for Mr. Kofmel's explanation as to why he had deliberately miss-spelt the name of his previous bankruptcies. Kofmel denied ever having used the miss-spelt company names - despite their ongoing presence at multiple sources on the internet  (source: see above). Higgins also claimed that Kofmel had refused to take his and other peoples names off the SCIS company websites. In his open statement he sought to "publicly dissociate" himself from Kofmel, and that he "deplored" his alleged actions.

Times Higher Education recently reported [source] that the SCIS has been "disowned by academics" and states that "the centre has a list of things to worry about.The University of Sussex complained that the SCIS was using a campus postal address that was "untrue and misleading". In addition, Mr Kofmel's SCIS co-founder has issued a statement strongly dissociating himself from Mr Kofmel. Last but not least, a string of renowned international academics listed on the SCIS website are demanding that their names be removed."

Professor Stephen Clark, listowner of the highly regarded philos-L newsgroup and Professor of Philosophy at Liverpool University, added to the growing list of academics speaking out in public about the SCIS scam stating "I have personally confirmed that none of the academics named on the SCIS website (http://www.scis-calibrate.org/) wish to have anything to do with it. Neither does the University of Sussex. The "International Advisory Board", the webpage now says, is to be "phased out as current members retire". This is somewhat disingenuous: they are not retiring, but resigning, and asking for their names to be removed." [Source]

SCIS Company Websites & Email addresses

The various SCIS Company websites were suspended by Mr. Kofmel's web hosting company (EUHOST.NET) on 17th September 2008. The main site as it appeared on Google's cache of the same on 1st September 2008 is located here. EUHOSTS have confirmed that they have suspeded all 10 of Mr. Kofmel's websites (scis-calibrate.org , scis-calibrate.com , scis-technology.comscis-technology.orgerichkofmel.org , erichkofmel.com , political-theology.com , political-theology.org , politische-theologie.compolitische-theologie.org) and all associated email accounts.

In a statement the owner of EUHOSTS confirmed "As an ethical hosting company, we would not knowingly or willingly have illegal, fraudulent or misleading information hosted by any of our clients, and we would expect the client to comply with our terms and conditions. While we do not however police our clients websites, we WILL take action if informed of any breaches of our conditions." 

Kofmel is currently understood to be in dispute with his webhost about the ongoing misleading and potentially fradulent content of his websites, which have been temporarily re-instated while he is given an opportunity to remove the misleading content. To date, he has failed to comply. Sadly EUHosts subsequently went into administration in January 2009 and Mr. Kofmel was able to take his misleading websites to offshore webhosting companies. 

SCIS company records

Directors of UK limited companies are required to file Annual Returns with Companies House - indeed it "is a criminal offence not to deliver the company's annual return within 28 days of the made-up date, for which company secretaries and directors may be prosecuted." Annual Returns for SCIS & SCIS Technology were due on 17th July 2008.

A spokewoman for Companies House has confirmed that as of August 28th 2008 that the Annual Returns for both SCIS & SCIS Technology were outstanding and that they had commenced "compliance action".

Moreover, Kofmel continues to use the controversial and misleading University of Sussex address "39 Tenant Lain" address for his 4 directorships and on the company websites. [see Recent developments above - Feb 09]

Faked "Identity theft" defence

When Kofmel was initially confronted by victims about the evidence against him, he was initially dismissive, rude and arrogant. He simply claimed (on 3rd March 2008) that "Erich Kofmel" and "Eric Kofmehl" were two different "not uncommon" names and we had contacted the wrong person.


In the process of getting to the truth, and identifying as many victims as possible (to build up a detailed database of IP addresses), it was necessary to post certain details of the crimes on public fraud detection forums on the internet -  for example the email addresses used in the frauds (shortterm@live.com, incontro2005@hotmail.com, eric.kofmel@virtualpost.ch) - and the spelling of the name that appeared in the booking confirmations - "Erich Kofmel"


Within a few hours of these posts being indexed by the search engine Google - there was a furious reaction from Kofmel about this, he threatened a large number of website owners, and others, with "slander" and "libel". He was particularly concerned to have the correct spelling of his name removed - "I expect that the whole thread of postings is removed from www.scamvictimsunited.com IMMEDIATELY. In particular, I expect any reference to my name, E_r_i_c_h___K_o_f_m_e_l , and/or anything to do with me to be removed forthwith." - even though the postings were entirely factual. 


Kofmel started to claim that he was the victim of identity theft. He changed his story from claiming the common "Erich Kofmel" name defence, to a sophisticated story of claiming that his identity had been stolen  - moreover he had a South African police report from July 2004 to "prove it".


Kofmel was pleading that the information be removed from the internet - and the search engines. He desperatley wanted to remove any trace of his name "Erich Kofmel" as opposed to his fake identity "Eric Kofmehl".


By this point, however, we had amassed a large amount of physical evidence that proved he was indeed the perpetrator of these crimes, and that this was a false defence......... 


French Cheque Frauds

According to unconfirmed reports by Kofmel's alleged prior landlord (Benoit Michel), Kofmel is wanted by the French Police in connection with cheque fraud, breaking and entering a property (18 Rue Cernuschi, 75017, Paris) with force (injuring a police officer in the process) and making a false declaration. However we await co-operation from the French authorities in confirming these reports.

See the latest development section (which outlines major developments in the last year or so) to a dedicated blog at http://kofmel.blogspot.com/.