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Goodbye Mark Francis, Hello Jeff Cassman

Editors note: in the wake of the ruling against Jeff Cassman, we’ve received several new and interesting comments regarding this post. Therefore, we’re sticking this one to the front page for the next week so nothing gets buried!

HERMOSILLO – I went to sleep with this gnawing feeling of being betrayed and lied to and I woke up with the same feeling. It was a feeling I knew well from having been around so many crooks, liars and scammers most of my life which forced me not only to develop a radar for these things, but to always seek the balance at the other end.

At midnight we checked into the Colonial Hotel in Hermosillo after yet another 12 hour day of driving to get us back on schedule with our travel itinerary. We’d stayed at this hotel before so I bargained them down to $60. Still pricey but we had WIFI, great food, pool and awesome rooms. Worth the splurge and Brad was doing the zombie walk, barely able talk so it was time to unpack our bags somewhere.

Once in the room both of us immediately started checking our emails – starved people come in from the desert of data famine. The first email I opened was one from my friend Rudy Giron with the PrensaLibre headline: “Capturan en Antigua Guatemala a estadounidense buscado por FBI“, American wanted by the FBI captured in Antigua, and right below was the big picture of our friend Mark Francis. I thought it was a hoax, one of those online websites that creates a phony newspaper front page just for laughs. I was frozen after reading the entire article.

Jeffery Lynn Cassman

“Cross reference it on the Prensa Libre page,” Brad tells me half-heartedly while clicking on his own email. “I already did,” I told him. “I’m reading the story from the Prensa Libre website.” At which point Brad stops everything he’s doing and we both drop our mouths in bewilderment. Brad tries to decipher the story from Spanish to English and so I read it to him and then we both continue to do google searches which brings up something from the Nashville post, email all our Antigua friends, look on Facebook, go to Mark’s GuateLiving bog, read the comments, and, yes, it’s true though truth did prove stranger than fiction in this instance: our friend is a scam artist. His name wasn’t Mark Francis, it was Jeff Cassman, wanted by federal agents for allegedly running a Ponzi scheme and about to face trial for mail and securities fraud charges that could put him behind bars for decades.

Here’s some of the articles we found:

Que.Es
Sweaty Peten

Nashville Post

Mark’s Guate Living blog

Guatemalan National Police video of his arrest:

The first day we met Mark Francis was the week we’d arrived to La Antigua after driving 10 days from Oakland, California. I’d found him through one of my Google alerts for Guatemala where we were preparing to live for a year and his blog, GuateLiving, came up as the most popular blog in Central America. Both Brad and I became instant fans: he was witty, smart, funny and cocky. So cocky at times that it pissed off a lot of people as was evident from the comments. He often came across as making fun at the expense of others and purposely incendiary. “He’s a man’s man,” Brad said when he first read him. “And he doesn’t feel a need to be politically correct.” It was a rare combination in Guatemala to have an expat, pundit, contrarian and unabashedly critical voice on Guatemala.

ESTADUNIDENSE ES CAPTURADO POR FRAUDEI looked him up, tried to find pictures of him, learn more about him and his background, but nothing. That meant there was only one way to get to know him, to email and talk to him with the ultimate goal of eventually meeting him in person. We exchanged a few quick emails about how much time he’d been in Guatemala and any travel tips he might have. Soon we were regularly in contact and I asked him to be on the HablaGuate BlogTalkRadio show on “Migrations”. It was a show I had asked Rudy Giron, a Guatemalan who immigrated to the US and then back to Guatemala to be on. Rudy was already showing his suspicion of him and didn’t want any kind of association with Mark Francis whose broad strokes were too broad for the meticulous, detail-oriented, accuracy-driven Guatemalan returnee.

It was an hour-long interview during which Mark shared the story of how he had worked in the financial sector in the United States, originally from Tennessee, and got tired of what he forecasted as the market downturn and the stressful, soul-less life. He and his wife wanted something different, so they sold their large house in Arizona, told their nine kids to pack up a duffel bag each and then got on the bus, all the way to Guatemala. That’s an 11-person family on a public bus. They stopped off in Mexico for six months (the details of why or where he did not reveal) and then decided to move farther south to Guatemala. They loved La Antigua and originally they wanted to live in the small exclusive mostly expat colonial town 40 kilometers from Guatemala City, but since there were so many of them, it was less expensive to live in Ciudad Vieja. They rented what was once a small hotel past the cemetery and on the road to Acatenango and home-schooled all their children.

When I asked him about what he was doing for work in Central America, he said he was looking at options, but that he didn’t need to rush things because he’d invested enough and got our early enough to be able to take care of his family comfortably for a few years. I remember doing the math in my head and thinking, even in Guatemala that’s at least $100,000 a year for what would end up being 12 family members near La Antigua living a US standard. He laughed when I referred him back to the original 11 figure he mentioned for the number of people in his family. “We’ve had our anchor baby,” he said. “Maria was born in Guatemala and so we’re not leaving anytime soon.” An anchor baby, from what troubled seas I wondered.

In talking to mi mama that night and sharing his story, she said in her usually skeptical way: “There’s only one reason anyone leaves the US by bus with so many kids.” “Why?” I asked her. “Because they’re running away from something.” I always took mi mama’s comments with a grain of salt because she’s seen and lived among the underbelly for a while, a survivor, with survivor instincts and the general principle of everyone is guilty until they prove themselves innocent.

“Hay ma, but isn’t it cheaper to travel that way when you have so many kids?” I retorted. “I thought he didn’t have any money problems?” She reminded me. I let the matter drop, I wanted to believe his story, it appealed to my literacy fascination with journeys.

Either way, the guy was, likable. In the car this morning as we make our way to Nogales, I ask Brad why he liked Mark: “He was likable friendly, charismatic, he was an extrovert, funny, he made me feel comfortable around him. He was a good storyteller, a good listener and I liked some of his cheeky opinions about politics even though I didn’t always agree I respected his forthrightness.”

But not everyone liked him. He’d received threats both via email, and now people were coming around his house and throwing rocks in his windows and at his kids. He blamed it on people misunderstanding where he was coming from on his blog. But mostly people were envious of him, had a chip on their shoulders or just felt a need to gossip. The thing that made him laugh the most was conspiracy theories on him just because he was different or had a story unlike anyone else’s. There were stories circulating about him being part of the CIA or that he was part of the Mossad- the Israeli secret service.

Sitting across him at Hector’s restaurant across from La Merced church, it seemed appropriate that we were in a stuffy cave-like restaurant serving hot Italian food in the hot afternoon. He had walked in after us and immediately recognized us sitting by the window facing the church. He was tall, husky, pale with black hair, a goatee and lovely green eyes. On a TV show he would have been Toni Soprano’s younger brother from Italy. He immediately introduced himself, kissed me on the cheek and adjusted his pant legs so his pants wouldn’t get wrinkled before he sat down, legs open and the heft of his belly hanging comfortably under his crossed arms.

“I was expecting someone with more American looks, way more clean cut American, I wasn’t expecting the big Semetic hockey player looking guy,” Brad said in remember that first meeting. Now it doesn’t surprise me, Brad says while driving us the last stretch to Nogales, that he was growing out his mustache and his hair was getting long and greasy. Whenever I’d see him in the park I would say ‘Wow, dude, you’re looking more Chapin everyday.'”

We ordered lemonades, he got a martini. We talked about life in La Antigua, chatted about his new house in Ciudad Vieja, his kids, his blog, Rudy walked into the restaurant for lunch business meeting. He stiffened when he saw Mark, gave him a formal handshake, kissed me on the cheek, patted Brad on the back and moved to the corner of the restaurant. He told us about his threats which he took on with bravado because he had just the same right as anyone to be here. “I’m adding to the economy,” he said. We treated him to lunch for all his help with travel tips and just for being a good person who helped us in our lives and transition down.

“It’s refreshing to spend time with Mark,” Brad said when we left the restaurant. “He’s so direct and straight forward.” At least in the way he expresses himself, I told Brad. You just never know where people have been. The day we met him he’d been to his first Catholic mass in Latin in Guatemala City (the only place where they held it in Latin) in his new used Mercedes Benz that he loved to speed in all the way down to Escuintla.

Over the next few months we stayed in contact via emails, back linking to each other’s blogs, invitations to trips (trips we never made because we were always working) and then the anniversary drinks to celebrate Mark and his family’s first year in La Antigua. We met his wife Sarah and beautiful baby Maria who slept through most of the meetup. There were about 15 of Mark’s friends, mostly online bloggers, expats, students and just funny characters who demonstrated the wide swath of Mark’s eclectic taste in people from different walks of life. It was then that I started to trust Mark more and stopped asking him so many questions to explain some of the inconsistencies.

Christmas and New Year’s rolled around and we got a personal invite to come over to his house for a small dinner with friends and family. We were flattered in a way that our friendship was solidifying. Mi mama was visiting for the entire month so we took her along. On New Year’s eve we found ourselves among a small group of friends and all of Mark’s children, mostly boys, bouncing off ever nook and crevice of the small hotel that had become their home and school. The bathrooms doors still had “Damas” and “Caballeros” printed on them and I got a small tour of each kid’s house, the small school room, the shared bedrooms for the boys and the girls and the living room which was spartan in furniture but full of handmade wooden toys, swords, and shields all in hand-crafted in dark wood. It was a clean, well-organized crew where the roles were well-defined and traditional.

Mark was the father and patriarch and Sarah was the wife and mother who looked after all the children and the new brownie recipes. Sarah was quiet, nurturing and a bit unsure of herself. She tripped over the stairs going up to the boys’ room and she turned completely red and was confused. The rest of the evening we watched the children light up fireworks and throw them in to the empty lot next door. “Matthew don’t throw fireworks at your brother,” the patient patriarch would say and then one of the younger children would come crying and screaming to get fatherly love and understanding. I got to see Mark in action as the central figure of his family and it was refreshing to see how he communicated with his family, maintained order and shepherded the flock. We left early because my mother was feeling uncomfortable, she wasn’t sure why, she said, but she just wasn’t comfortable there.

Last week, I had my farewell drink with Mark. It was originally a coffee to talk about the HablaCentro project I had recently been awarded an Ashoka fellowship to implement. He was very curious about it, what did it entail, did I have a business plan, how much was I going to invest into it. I appreciate that he was interested in learning more about it, but I was suspicious. I guess coming from a Guatemalan family, I’m always suspicious when someone cares enough to ask these types of questions. I met him at the bar across from Rikki’s where he was the center of attention amid this group of expats laughing loudly and drunkenly. We pulled out of the group and sat one table over. I did the Guatemalan chit-chat which I can do for hours, but he immediately steered the conversation.

“Tell me what you’re doing. Why are you driving back, what’s this project?” I explained to him that we were driving back because he needed to sell the car back home and because we both appreciate a good road trip. “Why didn’t you just sell the car here?” I told him the taxes had been quoted at more than $1,200 dollars on a $3,000 car and he said smugly: “That’s because you don’t know the right people at customs.”

I told him I thought that comment was funny because I did have family that worked at Puerto Barrios customs and I knew exactly what they did and I didn’t want to be part of the larger problem in Guatemala. I wanted to model the Guatemala I wanted to see. “Oh, I get it,” he told me with his usual charming, sarcastic gallantry. “You want to do good in Guatemala and since you have that chip on your shoulder about your family, you’re going the extreme trying to do things the hard way.” I laughed, yes, I said you could say that I went a bit to the other extremity.

There was no doubt about it, he was charming and an incredible storyteller. When he told you a story, he had this way of bringing you right in the middle of the action, you didn’t bother with details like what were you doing in Cuatro Caminos at 2 AM with a drunk British woman in your Mercedes Benz yelling obscenities who you just tied up to the passenger seat so the local indigenous people wouldn’t lynch you both for being so insulting? He would wave off my questions and continue on with his story, he had an endless supply of them and Guatemala seemed to be eating out of the palm of his hands.

He bought his way through the bureaucracy, paying for people to wait in line for him and paying the next person’s turn, he bought restaurants without any real source of income, thought of news businesses like bi-diesel run tuk-tuks, ran up against walls and then walked around them. He just had a way of getting around things. And so that evening, two days before Brad and I were about to head back to Oakland by land, I felt uncomfortable by his questions regarding my project. I felt that familiar feeling of someone wanting something from me, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, so instead I cajoled him into tell me stories.

It worked and so the rest of the hour, I listened to Mark, perhaps for the last time, animated, expansive and full of life and waving at every person who passed who saw and knew him through the window. He was like Cool Hand Luke, cool as can be. The hour went by quickly and so I took leave of him. He kissed me on the cheek and I rushed to meet Brad. In my rush I left my umbrella by his table. I called to him from the window and asked him to slip it between the window bars. “Here you go,” he said. “You should never leave things behind.” Not the ones you care about, I said to him and ran up the street.

Last night my friend Mark Francis died for me in a way that public personas die, in the way that people fall before our eyes who we care about and want to believe in because they show us a certain strength perhaps we never thought possible, a certain invincibility and lightness of being. I never knew Jeff Cassman the fugitive, but I knew Mark Francis who was making a new life for himself and his family in La Antigua, Guatemala. Whether that involved becoming a more ethical person, we may never know.

26 thoughts on “Goodbye Mark Francis, Hello Jeff Cassman

  1. Anne Groombridge says:

    Hi Kara.

    Although I’ve written to you once before, during Agatha, we have not met. I’d like to meet you and Brad one day though; I’ve been following your blog since your roadtrip that took you to Antigua. Actually, I found your blog through GuateLiving, which I followed almost from the time that “Mark” and Sarah arrived in Antigua. I enjoy reading your posts very much, and the ones in Spanish help me with my reading comprehension.

    Like you I was shocked and a little disappointed that “Mark” turned out not to be who we thought he was and wanted him to be. Your article detailing your experiences with him has been the most insightful that I’ve read…and there has been plenty written about his situation in the comments section of his blog in recent days, as you must know. It’s a funny thing, this community of people who became followers of GuateLiving; I think we all took some enjoyment from our interactions there whether they were active or passive, and “Mark” and his controversial opinions sure provided plenty of fodder. I am glad that his son may continue to write occasional entries. I hope they don’t sell it on. Also, like you, I was a little wary of “Mark” after I met him. With some of the outrageous he said about people (especially with his Antigua Hall of Shame pieces) I thought he was apt to get shot at at the very least! Certainly the posts about his kids getting rocks thrown at them were quite disturbing. But he was all the things you said about him as well….funny, smart, and obviously on the lookout for the next big opportunity.

    It’s pretty obvious how the story of Jeffrey Cassman will play out at this point. As someone already quipped, Mr. Cassman’s next blog may well be called FederalPenitentiaryLiving.Com! However, I am curious about how this will play out for Sarah and all those kids. From all these points of view, this is a fascinating story. It would make for a great book or film…and you are a great writer. Might be worth considering?

    Anyway, good luck on your latest adventure. I hope to meet you at some point when I’m in Antigua. I currently work in the UK and will be back at home in my Las Gravileas apartment over the Christmas holidays.

    Best regards, Anne Groombridge

  2. kwallek says:

    Love your ma ma, our elders have been there, done that, they are seldom wrong.

  3. Erin says:

    Great post, thanks for writing about your perspectives and thoughts! Nothing in Guatemala is what it seems….

  4. Erin says:

    Actually that should be nothing in [fill in the blank] is what it seems..

  5. Trudy says:

    You humanize the man, and that is great. Sounds like a caring father. Wonderful post. People can change, of course, but several more experienced people have commented that Mark never really wavered in his contempt for Guatemala and its people. His views were set in stone. From what I have heard, some believe he was actually already building another Ponzi scheme under the guise of US people investing in Guatemala. This, however, may be just gossip. He did try to get me involved in business with him at the beginning. Mark and I corresponded privately for a while, and I strongly suggested he get psychological therapy. He laughed it off and even published it on his blog. I still believe it would have done him good. Listen to your mother more carefully, her experiences in life have made her astute and wise. Just because she is suspicious about people and it turns out all right, doesn’t mean she didn’t have a valid reason to be wary. As for Mark, he should pay his debt to society and after that, perhaps, get the chance to rebuild his life in a more ethical manner. Lets wish him and his family well.

  6. KTdid says:

    Very interesting blog on the man my family knew as Jeff Cassman. It’s intriguing to read about his life since he disappeared from my hometown in TN with hundreds of thousands of dollars from hardworking fellow parishioners. He stole from and hurt a lot of trusting folks at the local Catholic church. I know, personally, because my family tried to help his, and he took from us as well. I just hope that his wife and children can find the help they need at this time. I know Sarah’s family, here in TN, has been worried sick about them and, if they were to come home, much support would be offered from family, friends, and the church.
    If you google “Cassman & TN Department of Commerce,” you can find out more about his previous life and “business” in TN.

  7. Nic Wirtz says:

    Impressive Kara, according to http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:MIpoZsZtSOwJ:tn.gov/commerce/securities/documents/JeffreyCassman02282008.pdf+Jeffrey+Lynn+Cassmab&hl=en&gl=uk&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESgart51kqTLZsFqAvNaPVTK2yqPCe3kO2yGQcz9kTim–q_GLfpncBau7tZhHGUveVurqqhChmNlrdndn1ki8DC00mv0bMxjELXqzFs0OJdt7z51OEq5yCGNqDgvPjvc4HoFvPM&sig=AHIEtbTbQvIVjvBGFCs8GsgoxRiIzVrXqg he had fleeced almost $200k that is known about from victims.

    Having spent six months in Mexico followed by over a year in Guate, I would suspect that 200k was running out so unless there was more defrauded in the first place, as Trudy points out chances are another scheme was at least in the planning stages.

    It would appear difficult not to humanise Jeffrey, I never met him personally but he offered a different view to the norm expressed on the majority of scribblings about Guate. Even in the short arrest video, which has some ways to go before it reaches the production levels of Mexican police vids, he certainly has an air of swagger about him. Cross between Johnny Depp and Steven Segal?

    The PNC using guatelving to promote their Flickr page was an impressive foray into social media too. Maybe things are changing here?

  8. Rudy says:

    I believe someone posted a link to his PDF investment opportunities in Guate. Here’s the link.

    http://guateliving.com/ads/

  9. Rudy says:

    What about the victims, they need to be humanize as well:

    “According to Ty Howard, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, Cassman’s illegal proceeds may be closer to $395,000.

    One couple that Cassman is accused of stealing from is his own in-laws.

    Esther Vandeberghe, of Franklin, says she hasn’t seen or heard from her daughter since October 2008, and she assumes that she’s cooperating with her husband. ”

    http://nashville.bizjournals.com/nashville/stories/2010/02/22/daily33.html

  10. Captain says:

    Thanks to this “charismatic,sociopath”, my husband and I will never be able to retire. He financially destroyed us after we tried to help them. Don’t believe the stories of him being a caring husband and father. He is more of a cult leader!

  11. braaad says:

    Mark- I mean Jeff- as a “cult leader” may be a bit of a mischaracterization. I never saw him as a messianic figure or hooked up to an E-meter. And he definitely never wore all black Heaven’s Gate style Nikes.

    But yeah, he’s a crook.

  12. […] done somet’in’ wrong. Why you can’t find where you belong?Well, well, well, well, ya running away, heh, no – Ya running away, ooh, no, no, no, I’m not (running away), no, don’t say that […]

  13. newmaya says:

    First person testimonials are key in this process of understanding the facts about “Mark Francis'” illegal behavior and how it impacted others. I appreciate that a few people have already shared their stories and are providing a first hand account of how they were directly impacted. Thank you for sharing with us. No one wins in this situation, but it does serve to show us how we are all inter-connected and how we can create an opportunity to heal as a community when a very real wrong has been done. It’s our job as a local and global community to hold people accountable, wherever they try to flee, when these wrongs have been committed. Forgiveness and compassion, however, are always key to understanding and really staying balanced and grounded in solutions. As the Zen buddhists remind us: we should never exercise justice upon our enemy in anger, we must do it with peace in our spirit.

  14. Neo says:

    Mark Francis or whatever his name is is a crook. I have little to none compassion with him. By the scams he did he selfishly decided he could change the lives on multiple people i Tennesse. He should suffer the consequences and then have the opportunity to redeem himself. Fleeing from justice is not redeeming. I have more or less no sympathy with that…

    Yet…

    Going back to the anger. I do understand the anger many feel about the him and what he did. Guatemala has gone through enough to have such a person destroy the seeds for trust. Do not let such a bad character destroy what is seeded.

    Hearsay and the fast blowing gossip channels are incredibly dangerous here, however unfortunately natural in when the jungle telegraph starts to blow after such events. It becomes almost like a game telling each other how bad the person is and you want to top your friend in stories. Some of them or all might be true but the fact is he is off the streets.

    Aggression and anger are good feelings when you harness them and focus them towards a team effort of progress. Otherwise you will still lose and the person being the source or the event for anger and aggression will win. Do not let such people win.

    Personally I am pissed at him (and whomever helped him) for dragging down a country who strives to build themselves up after having had to suffer through multiple levels of mishaps and direct abuses of the people. It is incredibly selfish. Yet the key is to focus on the future. Not the past.

    Reconciling with the past is key. Always. Not accept. But reconcile.

    To focus on building Guatemala and showing that whatever happens Guatemala will stand strong together and not fall into the same pit as he played in.

    Making him worse than he (probably) is make little sense for the future of Guatemala.It might let off a bit of steam, but don’t let a crook decide what the issues are for the future.

    The people of Guatemala decides. The decisions starts by as a community taking steps towards building a trust that will not be affected by a sad character for a crook.

  15. Nic Wirtz says:

    Thanks Rudy for that excellent link to the business interests of Jeffrey. Herein lies the true damage – the fallout from his arrest and deportation is the knock-on effect this will have on a number of local businesses, directly impacting numerous local families, nevermind his own, if indeed he had local business links.

    If he did not/had fewer than thought this can be seen as a fortunate escape for the local community.

    I can appreciate compassion and forgiveness but 400k is a lot of money that will have serious repercussions for a number of people. If they all posted victim impact statements on here would that change anyone’s opinion?

    Clearly first-person statement hold the most weight but for those of us who chose not to associate with Jeffrey for whatever reason and were proven correct, this does not that not count equally? Coming from a community management background the guy would have been banned on most forums/sites because he was a troll. I chose not to enhance the value of his site by commenting on it.

    Predictably this is in danger of turning into a time of I knew it/I told you sos. I don’t think it’s the time for thinking film/book scripts, just getting the family back will be an accomplishment and something local businesses are attempting to do. Although an humanitarian opportunity, it’s unlikely the airlines will see it that way with the backstory.

  16. Get a Grip says:

    You must all be out of your damn minds. This guy was a muppet. Pure and simple. I watched him try to juggle in his words “three bitches” from his iPhone during a poker game. A poker game, I might add that had a 200Q buy in and re-buy, yet “Mark” deemed it necessary to put 20K on the. table this before he took another call from one of his “bitches” (not his wife) and was deemed Persona Non Grata (he would have loved my use of the latin) at our table and locked out for the night. This has nothing to do with Chapin corruption but rather a con-man whose biggest scam was fleecing his in-laws. Get a grip.

    Following his arrest, inquiries were made with his wife, where an empty refrigerator along with 10 hungry mouths were found, prompting El Muro to donate 20% of their sales on Monday this week to the family. This monkey deserves everything he gets. Yet, it won’t be enough.

    This is of course to say nothing of the fact that he was caught here as he began lining up people to bilk here, thankfully one had him investigated.

  17. El Guanaco says:

    I met Mark/Jeffery when he and his family first arrived in Guatemala, before they settled in Antigua. They were attractive, he was interesting. I am as liberal as he professed to be on the right. He encouraged me to exchange ideas with his eldest son.
    Mark and I exchanged emails, long exploratory emails about ideas, my atheism, the absence of the need for a godhead from my life, a lifelong struggle with the anger from my Catholic childhood, my respect for and use of Buddhist philosophy.
    Probably 100 emails back and forth.
    They became angry exchanges as the health care summer ground on and the Tea Party emerged, as Obama and his merry band floundered around trying to work cooperatively with Republicans whose sole intention was his destruction.
    The exchange became more and more acrimonious, of no value from the point of developing ideas and understanding the other side.
    I characterized his predominate ultra-right position as ‘Christian hatred’, the worst kind since it was laced with hypocrisy. He claimed I was a typical liberal trying to control everyone else’s life. I pointed out that his gang was the one peeping through bedroom windows, not mine. He said my political position was not complete unless seen as an extension of Nazi and Russian Communist totalitarianism; I countered that to the contrary, those gory folks first destroyed liberals as their most threatening opponents before they getting on to torch the rest. I contended that, indeed, these very people were the heart and soul of the Republican demagogues we see spreading fear in the US today. Republican Goebbelses.
    I railed at his clownish pope putting the lives of millions of Africans in jeopardy by telling them the use of condoms did not prevent AIDS; he retorted that this was consistent with the Church’s teachings and that was enough justification.
    So it went for six months off and on until I realized that for my part, I was reduced to pulling his tail and I called a halt to it.
    Truthfully, there was no indication to me that he was the psychopathic thief the law in Tennessee suggests he was. I thought his so-called Christian life was built on the same hypocrisy I see in other right-wing Christians, but he wasn’t interested in trying to make me fall in line. He was uttering very acceptable cadences: after all, a good portion of public life in the US is utterly hypocritical which sort of makes it a norm.
    So, realizing that he had no source of income and that he was most likely about to revert to old habits of picking the pockets of friends some of whom would be my friends, I still must conclude that he was making an effort to live a different kind of life. I know nothing about the purported poker parties in which he threw money about; indications of dalliances weren’t part of my experience with him, just verbal exchanges which, for a time, were challenging.
    He was a friend of sorts.

  18. Michael says:

    This was a well written piece and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I new Jeff in Nashville and was “friends” with him for many years there. However, I always had that nagging feeling about him that you describe.

    I know some of his victims very well. One is a retiree who Jeff went to Church with who trusted Jeff with a lot of money. I sincerely doubt his claims to any sort of piety. This man is a sociopath in the purest sense.

    I am extremely pleased that he has been caught and will be brought to justice. However, I grieve for the kids who will be suffering because of their father’s selfishness.

  19. OBSERVER says:

    Don’t believe everything you hear. There are always 2 sides to every story – even with somone like Jeff Cassman. Sometimes things happen and people find themselves in over their heads and they make great mistakes trying to fix things. From all I have heard and read, that is what happened with Jeff Cassman. His in-laws are not to be trusted. They are hateful and vengeful people. They have alienated themselves from their daughter and their grandchildren and find it easier to blame Jeff than to look in the mirror at themselves. They have made flat out flase statements to the media regarding Jeff and his family life partly due to thier own hatefiled vengence and partly due their ignorance. Perhaps they were victims of Jeff’s alledged schemes, but their attempts to seek revenge have made them no better. No they are no longer victims – they have also become perpetrators. 2 wrongs don’t make a right but they seem to think it does. Read through their stories and it is easy to weed out the BS. Any bystander can see that their atempts to go to the media would not put them on the right side with their daughter and grandchildren. Anyone who understands the faith beliefs of Jeff and his family can also read through the BS on those comments. In addition, anyone who knows Jeff or knows those who do, can weed throught he BS on how he supposedly ill treated his family. It is hard to feel sorry for the in-laws when they are willing to lie for sympathy. Some people take pleasure out of being victims.

  20. EL says:

    I first meet Jeff Cassman in the early 90’s when he came to TN from AZ. The first time I meet hime I just had a feeling he was not one to be trusted. Years later I became his home insurance agent for one year. I can assure you I never approached him….he called my office for a quote which a member of my staff provided him with. I guess we were the lowest quote at the time. I was thankful to see him go to someone else after a year. Years later I would run into him at my daughters school where many parents had a Cassman for State House bumper stickers. I would see those bumper stickers and get a sick feeling in my stomach. He was one of those people who ran for office for the power. And he wanted it bad even moving his financial office next door to the Williamson Cty Republican HQ for a few years. They say he was a good con man. I guess my internal character/trust meter is better than most. I can’t say that I predicted he would end up in jail but I can say I did not want to have any dealings him and certainly never voted for him even though I am a registered Republican. Eventually the local Republican party figured him out I think because he moved out of the county and never ran for office again. Like most con men when you are found out you move on. I feel for those that got taken by him but I really feel for his wife and children. Especially the children. May God help them.

  21. EJ says:

    I knew Jeff from our days in the US Air Force as an Intelligence analyst. He had a way with people – very charismatic and the top brass took to him and his rhetoric. As the story points out, Jeff was a character and he really knew how to tell a story and even if he was full of it he was a storyteller. Personally, I thought he was a nice enough guy (with a little too much pomposity for me) but there was something about him I could never put my finger on so I held him at an armslength distance. He prided himself in front of authority figures as a family man but I found out differently once we served time in Panama City (Howard AFB) where he cheated on his wife on a regular basis. I had heard he moved back to TN and was going to run for office and got a laugh out of that and immediately thought … well, that makes sense!

  22. EJEM says:

    Cassman was sentenced today. 48 months – minus time served (9 months) is still a long time. Judge commented it wasn’t even that good a ponzy scheme and point blank ask him “What were you thinking?” in regard to fleeing to South America.

    Cassman appeared moved by the testimony of several victims. He sounded remorseful and sorry for the people he had hurt – financially and emotionally.

  23. aquaintance says:

    48 months and the judge said he was getting off easy. Wake up call for anyone who wants to “humanize” Jeff Cassman.
    He stole money from his in-laws…his grandparents life savings…his aunt and numerous others from his church and family friends. He actually stole 50k from his father-in-laws best friend and had the nerve to send the guy a W2, making him pay taxes on profits he never received!
    He has brainwashed his wife,kids and a particularly naive brother,the real Mark Francis, into believing that he is being “railroaded by the system for merely making bad LEGAL investments” but that he is being a martyr for pleading guilty just to end the stress for others.
    Meanwhile, he plays his family against his in-laws, making his kids think his wifes parents are to blame for his situation. He has also created rifts in the Cassman family by dividing them into two camps…those naïve enough to believe his lies, and those grounded in reality enough to know better.
    Jeff Cassman is a narcisist and a sociopath and a thief who can, apparently, tell a good story.
    Now, I’m sure you’re wondering how I know all of this and why should you take my word for it? Let’s just say that though I’m not one of his brothers, I am married to his sister for 15 years now.
    So,while I work 14 hour days to support my family and pay my taxes, Jeff leaves his wife and 10 kids stuck in Guatemala with no money or exit strategy while he’s being extradited back here to Nashville. He wasn’t even “mans man” enough to take the consequences of his actions. He ran from his responsibilities and I have zero pity for him and massive pity for his children and his wifes family and even Jeffs parents who have also been through hell with this thing.
    A little animosity between Jeff and I? Sure…just a bit. So take this for what its worth. I’ve never liked Jeff Cassman, since the first year I was married to his sister and he made my wife cry by telling her that we should move into a trailer because we were nothing but trailer trash. Irony is a bitch,huh?
    I am a republican conservative,catholic,husband and father and Jeff has insulted me and others like me,including his father and brothers, by claiming to be one of us.
    That said, I do hope that you will all pray for his children, they are the most innocent of Jeffs victims in this mess.

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