On a warm summer day in 2002, in Charlevoix, Michigan, Richard Joseph’s bad luck began.
The lawyer, husband, and father of two was walking across the driveway with a bag of garbage when his bare foot slipped in a puddle of water that had collected beneath his car’s air conditioner. While nothing was broken, the blow prevented blood from reaching his spinal cord.
By August 2007, complications prevented him from working at all — possibly forever.
Joseph describes his mental state after yet another stint in rehab: “I’m moping, pretty much, and right around Christmas time I decided, you know, I’d better get my butt in gear and find something I can do from home.
So, I tried to find work as a lawyer from home, but that was right when Michigan’s economy started to go to hell, and a lot of law firms weren’t outsourcing work.” So he took to the internet, looking for "work from home" opportunities and requesting information from various websites.
In February 2008, "out of the blue," Joseph got a call from a salesman that identified himself as Ron Martino from Push Traffic, with a work from home opportunity.
"And I know all this stuff about ‘too good to be true,’ but he went into great detail about how his brother was a paraplegic, and he helped his brother do this, and that the reason he was going to do it was because of me, he could only have one person under his wing, so to speak." It was in this vulnerable state, facing death and trying to care for his family, that Richard Joseph charged $20,000 on his credit card, money that he has yet to reclaim after phone calls, a lawsuit, and nearly three lean years.
What Joseph didn't know was that Martino was part of a vast criminal organization run by Los Angeles resident John Paul Raygoza.
Raygoza is an Internet Marketer — a 21st century snake oil salesman.
The term Internet Marketing in this context describes both a particular business model used to sell fraudulent products and services online, and the community or subculture that embraces it.
"I told him what had happened to me, and he said, ‘gee... I know what you’re going through, and I will help you out.’" Martino couldn’t talk him into anything straight away, so he began calling regularly, often just to chat.
It was while this was going on that Joseph contracted MRSA, a multidrug-resistant infection he wasn’t expected to survive. Because I knew him well enough I told him what hospital I was in.
He called the hospital, got my room number, talked to me in the hospital.