July 28, 2001

Beginning of the Road

By Dane Sorensen


Almost nine months ago, I was looking in the mirror a lot. I had been checking to see if my dunce cap was straight. I, also, turned around to see how much of my derrière is still left after being taken in by the Reverend Thomas Crain and his Zephyr Marketing. Good old Zephyr was a con operation that sold credit cards to the poor with a sales force that never saw more than two paychecks in two months. There were a lot of us duped in Ely. Rev. Crain was a master of salesmanship. He always had a bright positive air about him. Even after I locked him out of his space there were unpaid employees who still wished to work for him. One wonders if we, as a community, should have changed our attitudes towards new businesses and outsiders?

I have always admired people who start new businesses. I have started several myself and know how hard it is. The fact is over 90% of all businesses fail in the first two years. That is not a good success rate. It is amazing anyone is foolish enough to try; yet it is the secret of our countryís prosperity. Even with 90% failing, the other 10% manages to create wealth, jobs and security. My openness to someone who wants to start a business in Ely is the secret to my success in the leasing business, but it is, also, my weakness. It allows someone to come in and fail. It allows someone to leave me with bad checks. Whenever a business fails in Ely everyone talks about it. When one fails because of dishonesty and fraud it really gets talked about. I recall it even rated a five minute TV report on KMSP in Minneapolis.

In a way I feel sorry for the Rev. Crain. Even though he owes me over $3,000.00 I liked his can-do attitude. I liked the fact that he wanted to create jobs and help our community. The ironic thing is that if he used his talents honestly he probably would be a success. Now he has had to deal with the Minnesota Attorney Generalís Office and the Postal Inspectorís Fraud Department in Minneapolis for the last nine months. His life has been very complex. I found it odd last summer when Crain told me he did not have any friends in Minneapolis. Now I know why. He cannot afford to stay in one place for any length of time. That is the price of always using other peopleís money and possessions. From what I have learned of the Rev. Crain it is that he had a long trail of unpaid bills in both Minnesota and Wisconsin.

I have seen people like this before. They outwardly act as sincere and honest people. Inwardly, they plot for every advantage they can get. Some call this the Clinton disease. President Clinton still does not understand the moral wrong he did with Monica, nor when he helped himself to half the White House furniture. I remember last September Clinton stated that beating Impeachment was one of his administrationís greatest accomplishments. I find that odd. Where is the shame?

I feel sorry for all those who have been taken advantage of by Crain. I felt sorry for the small copier business in Minneapolis that leased Zephyr a copier and had not seen a payment in six months. They were very surprised to find their copier was now 240 miles away. I feel sorry for the honest employees who were duped by Crain with his promises of high pay and big bonuses. By now for many it is a faded memory, at least for those of us who are honest. We have moved on. For Rev. Crain, the wheels of justice have kept him moving. He moved back to Minneapolis after Ely and tried to start his scheme again. What a pathetic life. He can never put down roots, never own a home, never know when someone will recognize him from the past, never have any long term friends.

Finally, I feel sorry for those that try to start a new business, because folks like Rev. Crain give entrepreneurs a bad name. Most people are basically honest. They may drive over the speed limit on the freeway or do some other small infraction, but that is fairly lame and harmless. Then there are the Rev. Crains who take advantage of human nature and our liberal laws on bad checks. They play the system like a harp from hell and can go for years without paying the piper. They know that it takes a mountain of evidence before any state attorney generalís office actually takes legal action. I just find the price of no roots, no friends, and no family life, a life not worth living. There are many forms of wealth and Rev. Crain will find that they cannot be bought with dirty money and bad checks. I just canít see a leased Mercedes as a fair exchange for an honest life.

While us honest folk in Ely have licked our wounds and moved on, the Rev. Crain has finally found out that blind justice is not so blind. He was eventually charged and pleaded guilty to two counts. One count of mail fraud and one count of Obstruction of Justice. This probably was an example of where he was originally charged with everything under the sun and ended up plea bargaining down to those charges. The bottom line is Mr. Crain awaits sentencing and could get anywhere from 30 to 37 months in jail. I hope he can make enough on the license plate production line to pay his Mercedes lease payments. It would be a shame if he had no way to leave prison once he was done.


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