We've all received those emails.
The ones that purport to come from some Nigerian prince, or a highly placed government official, or a desperate housewife trying to claim her rich husband's inheritance. Somehow they've got your email address and are convinced that you're the only person who can help.
And your reward for your kindness? Money, and lots of it. All you have to do is work with them.
All you have to do is trust.
My friend, Mike Dreiling, trusted. And it cost him everything.
Our other friend, Scott Everton, and I decided to help. We'd grown up together and were as close as brothers. We couldn't sit by and let Mike slide further into his black hole. We had to do something.
Just as all jokes start somewhere, so does every scam have a scammer. We decided to see if we could build on the information we had and actually track this guy where he lived: Cape Town, South Africa. Amazingly, Mike had actually met the scammer, and what's more, had a friend in Cape Town, Ezra, who thought he could help. It seemed like as good a plan as any. Most of all, Scott and I wanted the opportunity to get our friend back on his feet and doing something, and what better than an adventure halfway around the world in a place as beautiful and interesting as South Africa? We'd even bring my cameras along and make a documentary out of it. We didn't really think we'd find the guy.
We didn't think anything bad would happen.
We were wrong.
It's been over a year since everything happened. Mike and Scott are gone, and I'm the only one left to tell this story. I didn't want to at first, but as time passed, and with the suppor of my friends and family, I realized that only by finishing what I started would I ever have a chance to truly understand not only the what of it, but the why.
I'm a filmmaker, and this is how I deal.
Maybe this will help such things from happening in the future. I hope so. The world can be a cruel place: Mike and Scott learned that lesson all too well.
I hope you enjoy my film, 419, and I hope you, too, learn something from it. I certainly have.