If we can prosecute a man for selling fake bomb detectors, how are homeopaths still in business?

0

James McCormick made millions from selling bomb detectors. In the age of terrorism, he supplied military forces all over the world. The detectors could be switched over from detecting explosives to detecting drugs by switching a card inside them; apparently, they could also be set to detect ivory or banknotes, from the "vapours" produced by the substances alone.


Unfortunately, there was a problem. The devices were a complete sham, with no electronics inside. They were, in fact, based on a novelty golf ball detector which Brian Butterfield-lookalike McCormick had bought from an American in-flight magazine.

At the old Bailey yesterday, the court was told McCormick's detectors, which he had been selling at £27,000 a piece, were "completely ineffectual" and "lacked any grounding in science".

When I read those words, I couldn't help but think of all of the assorted homeopaths, wizards and internet psychics that plague the gullible online. Last year, eBay banned the sale of “advice; spells; curses; hexing; conjuring; magic; prayers; blessing services; magic potions; healing sessions” and other intangible or metaphysical stuff, because so much of it was transparently fraudulent.

While this sort of nonsense may have been driven off eBay, it still proliferates online. You can find pretty much any magical procedure you want, if you're gullible enough, and have deep enough pockets. The line between peddling magic and peddling pseudoscience is quite thin – I recall looking into "Vampire Facelifts" last year, essentially a cosmetic procedure where the patient's own blood is injected back into their face "to keep them eternally young". I wondered if they were dangerous.

Written By: Willard Foxton
continue to source article at blogs.telegraph.co.uk

NO COMMENTS

    • In reply to #1 by ZenDruid:

      It’d be nice if Google, following eBay’s cue, redirected searches for homeopathy and the like to “Quackery”.

      Whilst it would be amusing, I don’t think censoring what people can see like that is a good idea. I was against (in principle) the banning of homeopathy and spells on eBay. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all bollocks and I’d prefer it all gone completely, but people have a right to purchase whatever bollocks they like. Of course, eBay is a company not a government institution and can therefore choose whatever products it does and does not allow for sale on its marketplace so what I think isn’t relevant; if it was a government organisation / marketplace that went to ban it I would have probably gone all strident and shrill and signed a petition or something.

      The problem is that although these nonsense things can cause harm (if homeopathy or a healing spell is selected over proper medical care, for example) banning or hiding them doesn’t gel well with my views that people should be free to choose. I could probably write a massive post on touching on all the relevant subject areas (the right to choose for your dependents or those in your charge, misleading claims about the efficacy of homeopathy or bomb detection units etc)… but I’ll spare you all. It’s a tricky subject, though.

      • In reply to #4 by BenS:

        In reply to #1 by ZenDruid:

        It’d be nice if Google, following eBay’s cue, redirected searches for homeopathy and the like to “Quackery”.

        Whilst it would be amusing, I don’t think censoring what people can see like that is a good idea. I was against (in principle) the banning of homeopathy and spel…

        If they are just getting the stuff for personal use i’m all for a fool and his money soon parting. It’s that nagging question about whether they’ll force children use the crap that makes my blood boil.

  1. There’s a relevant difference though. Homeopathy moves in a more diffuse world of results, so it isn’t as easy to judge and punish as an electronic device without any electronics at all in its inside.

    If I sell you a device saying it is capable to do a particular and measurable thing, and it doesn’t; then we’re talking about swindle. But most times homeaopathy is a too obvious fake: if I sell you the Eiffel Tower for $10,000 and you accept… When you realize that you can’t actually own it… who’s to blame? Morally it’s my fault, of course… But legally?

    • In reply to #3 by masquearquer:

      There’s a relevant difference though. Homeopathy moves in a more diffuse world of results, so it isn’t as easy to judge and punish as an electronic device without any electronics at all in its inside.

      Metaphysics does seem to be an ideal scam; it certainly hides one’s intentions more effectively. If the scammer is then in denial or unaware of any wrong doing then others are more easily convinced of their legitimacy.

    • In reply to #3 by masquearquer:

      But most times homeaopathy is a too obvious fake: if I sell you the Eiffel Tower for $10,000 and you accept… When you realize that you can’t actually own it… who’s to blame? Morally it’s my fault, of course… But legally?

      I don’t think it is obvious to many (maybe even most) people that homeopathy is a fake.

      Many people will never have heard the criticism of homeopathy. All they will have heard is various people recommend homeopathic treatments to them. They may even be offered pills without even being told they are homeopathic remedies. Even if they are told they are “homeopathic”, they won’t know what that means. Pills are pills, aren’t they, and pills cure ailments.

      Some years ago, before I had any idea what homeopathy was, I had an operation and someone I knew gave me some Arnica pills telling me to take them after the operation as they would help the bruising go down. I knew the were “complementary” but did not know they were classed as a homeopathic treatment. Anyway, I took the pills, along with the regular drugs the doctors prescribed. A few weeks later she asked me if the Arnica pills worked. I was at least wise enough at the time to reply that I had no idea, as I had no idea how much the bruising would have subsided had I NOT taken them. Her reaction indicated that she’d never heard that kind of reasoning before!

      • In reply to #15 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

        I don’t think it is obvious to many (maybe even most) people that homeopathy is a fake.

        Of course it’s not… If it were, then people wouldn’t pay for that. I mean it’s too obvious from the legal point of view; just as selling the Eiffel Tower is. I don’t defend it, just saying that it’s not the same thing than the fake bomb detector, and not as easy to judge. You cannot know if that is really a bomb detector unless you inspect it… It could have been, bomb detectors exist, are real, but that is just not one; they clearly lied to you.

        Obviously not all the cases are the same, there’s also a difference between selling a pill which you claim has a concrete effect; and telling you that water’s memory will reduce your symptoms and make you feel better… How do you prove that the client was cheated? Maybe he knew it was false, and paid anyway because he wanted relief. Maybe that’s bad too, but it’s clearly not the same case as the bomb detector. And more important: how do you establish a methodic system of judging it, which you actually need to illegalize it?

        In reply to #17 by alaskansee:

        I don’t agree, homeopathy says it cures virtually everything, if it doesn’t there’s your case.

        And that’s why homeopathy is a scam, and should be prosecuted… It’s just not that easy… My first comment was kind of an answer to the headline of the article.

        • In reply to #18 by masquearquer:

          Obviously not all the cases are the same, there’s also a difference between selling a pill which you claim has a concrete effect; and telling you that water’s memory will reduce your symptoms and make you feel better… How do you prove that the client was cheated? Maybe he knew it was false, and paid anyway because he wanted relief. Maybe that’s bad too, but it’s clearly not the same case as the bomb detector. And more important: how do you establish a methodic system of judging it, which you actually need to illegalize it?

          I agree it’s harder to prove the effects of a pill than a bomb detector. It requires much more complex and lengthy trials. Even then, you may not be able to claim absolutely that it would not work for anyone. But there is obviously a system of tests in place that the regular pharmaceutical industry has to follow. It’s bizarre that a parallel drug industry can exist that doesn’t also have to follow the same system. Who decides why one system has to be tested and another doesn’t? At the very least, anyone supplying homeopathic remedies ought to be legally obliged to tell any potential customers that there is absolutely no evidence that they work.

    • I don’t agree, homeopathy says it cures virtually everything, if it doesn’t there’s your case. All you need to do is match the claim with the person that made that claim. Obviously the 1023 project took much of that away but still…

      In reply to #3 by masquearquer:

      There’s a relevant difference though. Homeopathy moves in a more diffuse world of results, so it isn’t as easy to judge and punish as an electronic device without any electronics at all in its inside.

      If I sell you a device saying it is capable to do a particular and measurable thing, and it doesn’…

  2. People can’t actually buy whatever they like, certain items are prohibited, also a product has to be suitable for the purpose described. If I buy a remedy for a acne or for protection against demons it has to be capable of having its claims tested. If the claims cannot be verified then anyone selling it should be done for fraud. Homeopathy for the ignorant appears to work because of the placebo effect. It doesn’t produce any effects beyond placebo and where it is used as an alternative to tested and approved medication it is potentially dangerous if it means a serious medical complaint doesn’t get treated . The question rests I suppose on whether the purveyor is deliberatley selling something which they know doesn’t work and claim it is fit for purpose.

  3. I’m more concerned that the security services fell for this scam. They are supposed to use evidence to prosecute the guilty and exonerate the innocent. In the UK there is a stereotype of the thick policeman. Third world plod are certainly living up to this stereotype, but then the original BBC article stated that some officials who knew it was a fake were bribed to buy it for their security services.

    Maybe this prosecution will actually open up the way for Dr Quack to be done for selling magic to Mr Thick Hypochondriac. We can but hope.

  4. There are some attempts to apply the law to fakers in the regulated sector!
    Unfortunately there is a whole sector of unregulated quackery!

    Scientist Steven Eaton jailed for falsifying drug test results

    Steven Eaton, from Cambridgeshire, has become the first person in the UK to be jailed under scientific safety laws.

    Eaton, 47, was working at the Edinburgh branch of US pharmaceutical firm Aptuit in 2009 when he came up with the scam.

    If it had been successful, cancer patients who took the drug could have been harmed, the court was told.

    Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard how Eaton had manipulated the results of an experiment so it was deemed successful when it had actually failed.

    The story emerged after Eaton was convicted last month under legislation called the 1999 Good Laboratory Practice Regulations.

  5. This con artist pulled the con, but he had plenty of gullible or dishonest accomplices, a naked emperor if ever there was one. Usually it’s “Buyer Beware”, but if you’re buying equipment for the War On Terra, then who cares as long as you can line your own pockets.

    Chalk it up to one more scam under the global umbrella of the ultimate scam that has been US foreign policy this century. Plenty of profits to be made out of war and chaos, his few millions were peanuts compared to the loot raked in by some.

    Against this background, what chance do you have of shutting down homeopathy? It even has it’s own built-in escape clause (read the small print): it says it won’t work unless the patient fulfils a whole list of conditions. Which either they don’t (therefore it doesn’t work, no refunds), or they do, which amounts to cleaning up their lifestyle to the point where lots of ailments get better by themselves, in which case the medicine “worked”, hooray.

    Remember, to be successful: take all the credit, pass all the blame.

  6. I see his trickery has caught up with him!
    >
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22380368
    >

    Fraudster James McCormick has been jailed for 10 years for selling fake bomb detectors.

    >

    He is thought to have made £50m from sales of more than 7,000 of the fake devices to countries, including Iraq.

    The fraud “promoted a false sense of security” and contributed to death and injury, the judge said. He also described the profit as “outrageous”.

    Police earlier said the ADE-651 devices, modelled on a novelty golf ball finder, are still in use at some checkpoints.

    Sentencing McCormick, Judge Richard Hone said: “You are the driving force and sole director behind [the fraud].”

    He added: “The device was useless, the profit outrageous, and your culpability as a fraudster has to be considered to be of the highest order.”

    One invoice showed sales of £38m over three years to Iraq, the judge said.

    The bogus devices were also sold in other countries, including Georgia, Romania, Niger, Thailand and Saudi Arabia.

  7. what can I say …..when the homeopath has finished his dilutions there are no molecules left to do anything …unfortunately not enough people retain or take in there elementarey chemistry or physyics lessons at shooll level and never think they will enable you to realise that these so called medics are ALL charlattons.you may realise spelling is not my strongest subject .!
    Trouble is so many people have an overpowering desire to believe something that they are so ready to be pulled along by that ring through their nose .Also we live in a society that believes if you pay a lot of money ….then it must be good and do the job..OH MY …whatever an atheist uses to finish this little saying. By the way I´m off to sell my humane fishing rods now for $100…each to all the woolly hat lot ….they can´t hurt the fish ….they have no hook on the end

Leave a Reply