NY prosecutor: Scammers fleeced wealthy musician, Schlumberger heir for $20 million

A wealthy musician lost $20 million over six years to scammers who persuaded him of threats against him coming out of Central America, the conservative Catholic movement Opus Dei and the CIA, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

The Associated Press reports

Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore said a Chappaqua man was indicted last week in a scam targeting Roger Davidson, a pianist and composer from Katonah, a small town north of New York City. Davidson is founder and president of the Society for Universal Sacred Music. His great-grandfather and great-uncle founded the oil services company Schlumberger Ltd.

The district attorney said Vickram Bedi, 37, was arraigned Tuesday on a charge of grand larceny. His computer services business in Mount Kisco was also indicted. Bedi pleaded not guilty and was held on $5 million bail.

Bedi and a co-defendant were arrested last year as they prepared to leave for Iceland. Officials said at the time that they had stolen at least $6 million from Davidson. The district attorney’s office said Tuesday the amount was more than $20 million and investigators were working to find the assets.

The co-defendant, Helga Invarsdottir, 40, of Chappaqua pleaded guilty last year to grand larceny and is awaiting sentencing. […]

If convicted, Bedi could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison.

The Wall Street Journal reported in November 2010

The saga began in August 2004 when Roger Davidson, 58 years old, a pianist and jazz composer who once won a Latin Grammy, took his computer to Datalink Computer Services in Mount Kisco, saying the machine had been infested with a virus.

The owners of the company, Vickram Bedi, 36, and his girlfriend, Helga Invarsdottir, 39, became aware of Mr. Davidson’s high profile and allegedly proceeded to convince him that he was the target of an assassination plot ordered by Polish priests affiliated with Opus Dei, a conservative Roman Catholic organization, authorities said. […]

With knowledge of the victim’s family background, police allege, Mr. Bedi turned a routine client call regarding a computer virus into a multimillion-dollar fraud. Ms. DiFiore said Mr. Davidson was the victim of at least a $6 million larceny. The police chief in Harrison, which took the lead in investigating the case, said the amount stolen could be as much as $20 million.

When asked to remove the virus from the laptop, Mr. Bedi allegedly told Mr. Davidson that his computer had in fact been attacked with a virus so virulent that it also damaged Datalink’s computers, according to prosecutors.

Mr. Bedi told Mr. Davidson that he had tracked the source of the virus to a remote village in Honduras and that Mr. Bedi’s uncle, purportedly an officer in the Indian military, had traveled there in a military aircraft and retrieved the suspicious hard drive, prosecutors said.

In addition, Mr. Bedi told the victim that his uncle had uncovered an assassination plot against Mr. Davidson by Polish priests tied to Opus Dei, according to prosecutors.

French woman loses Opus Dei enslavement case

A French woman has lost her “enslavement” court case against two followers of Opus Dei and an association closely linked to the powerful conservative Catholic group.

The Telegraph says

Catherine Tissier, 40, had claimed that from the age of 14 until 27 she was forced to clean, wash and serve 15 hours per day, with no holidays or proper pay at a hotel school linked to Opus Dei.

A French court ruled there was no evidence she had been trapped all that time without remuneration.

She said as a “numerary assistant”, she was forced to take vows of obedience, poverty and chastity and cut off from the outside world.

She had filed for charges of “concealed work” and “payment contrary to dignity”.

Defence lawyers had insisted the trial, believed to be the first of its kind in Europe, was a simple labour dispute.

But lawyers for Miss Tissier alleged the group’s practices were physically and psychologically damaging to their client.

According to the Associated Press

Tissier’s lawyer said she would appeal.

A spokeswoman for Opus Dei, Beatrice de La Coste, welcomed the decision, saying it “reaffirms the complete exoneration of Opus Dei.” […]

During the September trial, the prosecutor had requested a €30,000 ($42,000 at the time) fine against the association, ACUT, linked to the Roman Catholic group and €6,000 in fines against the two Opus Dei members.

They faced charges of “clandestine work” and “remuneration contrary to dignity.”

However, the court ignored those requests, acquitting all defendants. The ruling did not evoke the situation of “numeraries” and said that Tissier’s claims went unproven. The court recognized that employees of ACUT “handled numerous unpaid tasks,” but said that Tissier’s decision to join was “without constraint.”

The court noted that state records show she was paid. She claims she was asked to sign blank checks by her employers and never saw her salary.

Tissier was 14 when she joined the hotel school in Dosnon, in eastern France. She stayed on despite the rigors, following the group’s spiritual path.

Virus Leads to $20 Million Scam

A noted music composer and oil-family heir was fleeced out of as much as $20 million over a six-year period by a Westchester computer repairman and his girlfriend, authorities said Monday.

The saga began in August 2004 when Roger Davidson, 58 years old, a pianist and jazz composer who once won a Latin Grammy, took his computer to Datalink Computer Services in Mount Kisco, saying the machine had been infested with a virus.

The owners of the company, Vickram Bedi, 36, and his girlfriend, Helga Invarsdottir, 39, became aware of Mr. Davidson’s high profile and allegedly proceeded to convince him that he was the target of an assassination plot ordered by Polish priests affiliated with Opus Dei, a conservative Roman Catholic organization, authorities said. [Read more...]

Opus Dei lets film director in on some of its secrets

Opus Dei British film-maker Roland Joffe is to recreate the life and miracles of Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer, the Spanish priest who founded Opus Dei, one of the most influential and secretive organisations within the Catholic Church.

The film seems set to stir up more controversy, following in the wake of several screen hits tapping into public fascination with tales of Opus-inspired crimes and conspiracies, which have set Vatican chasubles aflap. [Read more...]