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When I was a kid, one of my dad’s favorite, ratty t-shirts said “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” on it. If I remember correctly, the shirt’s design had a lot of food flying this way and that, and it was very peculiar and made little sense. At one point, I asked what the hell the expression meant. And boy am I glad I did. Everyone should be faced with this confusing image as a child, and then be forced to understand it. Put the expression on quarters and dollar bills! Engrave it on the fronts of fancy bank buildings! Inscribe it on university insignia! Does this little monologue have a purpose? Why, yes…

In yesterday’s Washington Post, Elizabeth Razzi reported on a Silver Spring-based company that defrauded clients by promising massive returns on their investments while paying off their mortgages. People that got involved with the operation, Offutt Group, came to the table with significant debt already, hoping to prevent the bank from foreclosing on their properties. Apparently some of the investors had also been enrolled in a similar scam last year. It’s a terrible tale. Then again, why would anyone believe this?

“Offutt sold partnership agreements promising that an initial investment of $30,000 would return $110,000 to participants. He promised even greater returns on larger investments, up to a $770,000 return on an investment of $120,000. The order says Offutt and his companies are not registered as broker-dealers or investment advisers in Maryland.”