Cat designer declares war
The less-than-reputable entrepreneur at the helm of a company peddling hypo-allergenic cats is under scrutiny again -- this time for fraudulent "designer cats."
The less-than-reputable entrepreneur at the helm of a company peddling hypo-allergenic cats is under scrutiny again -- this time for fraudulent "designer cats." But now he's taking the offensive by making allegations against journalists who have covered his company.
In January of last year, The Scientist staff writer Kerry Grens investigated a company called Allerca that claimed to have created the world's first hypoallergenic cat. Grens uncovered a string of shady dealings and questionable science associated with the company, including the fact that its founder, Simon Brodie, had served two and a half years in jail for fraud. Read Grens' full story linkurl:here;http://www.the-scientist.com/2007/1/1/32/1/ and a follow-up story linkurl:here.;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54020/
Last month, San Diego Union-Tribune staff writer Penni Crabtree was investigating the Dutch seizure of three exotic cats that had been sold for about $40,000 by a U.S. company claiming to make designer cats. That company, known as LifeStyle Pets, happens to be an offshoot company of Allerca. The three seized cats were supposed to be a special mixed breed of "exotic" cats, called Ashera (you can read Crabtree's full story linkurl:here;http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/business/biotech/20080205-9999-1b5cats.html ).
Over the course of Crabtree's reporting for the story, allegations emerged that the seized cats were not in fact a specially bred mix but just Savannah F1 cats, purchased from a breeder in Pennsylvania. On January 24, Crabtree called and Emailed Brodie for a response to the allegations. Instead of returning calls or Emails, the next day Brodie issued a press release that was picked up by Mass Media, a distribution newswire (read the release from Brodie's Web site linkurl:here;http://www.simonbrodie.com/NsPdf.PDF ).
The press release accused Crabtree of accepting money from a competitive pet product company, Idexx Laboratories, in exchange for giving Cyntegra -- another of Brodie's pet companies -- bad press. According to the release, Crabtree is being investigated as part of a lawsuit that Cyntegra is pursuing against Idexx. The release also stated that Grens was being investigated for accepting money from Idexx.
Idexx did not return two calls for comment.
Crabtree told The Scientist that these accusations are ridiculous. Grens (now senior science reporter at WHYY in Philadelphia) wrote in an Email to The Scientist that she had never interacted with or spoke to anyone at Idexx, never accepted money from them, and was not aware that she was being investigated by Brodie.
In response to the press release, Union-Tribune attorney Scott Wahrenbrock sent a letter to both Brodie and Mass Media demanding a retraction. Brodie did not respond, but privately sent out the press release again to hundreds of reporters, Wahrenbrock told The Scientist. He added that Mass Media linkurl:removed;http://www.mmdnewswire.com/despite-subpoen-2823.html Brodie's press release from their Web site and have assured Wahrenbrock that the retraction letter written by the Union-Tribune will be posted there within 24 hours.
In a copy of the retraction letter Wahrenbrock sent to The Scientist, which you can read linkurl:here,;http://www.the-scientist.com/supplementary/pdf/54284/UnionTrib_Retract.pdf Wahrenbrock discounts most of the claims made by Brodie, in particular, that Crabtree accepted money to discredit a local businessman (Brodie), and that Crabtree is being investigated for taking money from a rival pet company.
In response to a request for comment, Brodie wrote in an Email: "We will not be posting a retraction. I can only presume Mass Media is posting a retraction because they have been threatened by the [Union-Tribune's] attorneys (this is a fact), and not because they want to -- so much for free speech." He refused to provide any evidence against Grens, saying that it is in the hands of his investigators. He also refused to say who his investigators and attorneys are.
"I don't know if anybody believes anything he says," Wahrenbrock said. But "he does bilk people out of money."
February 7, 2008
Con-men (and women) play high dudgeon, and specialize in exhibiting the body language and intonations of speech associated with honesty and probity. When attacked, they attack back. Notably, the CIA teaches these techniques to field personnel who will be spies operating alone. (NOCs) They work two ways. First, they tire people out. Everyone has limited time and energy to deal with lies. Second, they confuse a great many people for a long time and always, some will believe them. Third, they scare people off of investigating them for fear that their own lives will be ruined or made difficult. Fourth, they buy time to plan for disappearing and the next con-job. It is important for such people (and they also reside as professors here and there in universities) to be rooted out and cast out without mercy.