Fool's Gold

Our intrepid correspondent follows a scheming ex-con to Mexico in search of treasure. They find bupkus.

Reeder is quick to point out his good deeds while Cornerstone was thriving, such as hosting a charity golf tournament to benefit a Wedgwood Baptist shooting victim and a girl born without hands and legs. He had read about the girl in the Star-Telegram and says he promptly gave her family $10,500. He also offered the 12-year-old a position as Cornerstone's public relations director, a role in which he envisioned her writing inspiring messages to clients. But the feds' raid changed all that.

Now, if anyone is the crook, says Reeder, it is Uncle Sam.

As he drives on, he finds a sympathetic ear among those packed in his truck.

Gary finds a cow skeleton. Hey, it's symbolic--the dead cow represents the SEC, and Gary stands triumphant, holding a chunk of gold ore.
Gary finds a cow skeleton. Hey, it's symbolic--the dead cow represents the SEC, and Gary stands triumphant, holding a chunk of gold ore.
Kenneth, Gary's partner -- at the time, anyway -- supposedly has concessions to seven Mexican gold mines.
Kenneth, Gary's partner -- at the time, anyway -- supposedly has concessions to seven Mexican gold mines.

"Once you have this kind of experience with the government," says David, a nursing home-care administrator from Oklahoma who lost $6,000 in Cornerstone, "it's not mom, apple pie, and hot dogs anymore." He was Reeder's main supporter after the raid, so much so that he made seven trips down to Dallas, including one to picket outside the courthouse while the SEC brought its civil suit against Reeder.

Just weeks before the Mexico trip, Reeder had sent out letters to some 20 old clients. Like many a salesman, Reeder wasn't above stretching the truth, saying that his latest venture was already under way, that he was mining metals and importing them into America, that he had concessions to seven mines.

"Haste makes waste," he wrote clients, telling these eager, particularly elderly ears that gold, silver, platinum, and more were embedded in the pristine mountains of Mexico, that if they gave him about $3,000, they'd get awesome returns: $4,480, to be exact. On second thought, $18,500. No, make that $60,000.

"You know," he says now, "there's more precious metals in Mexico than there is in the United States. We've got gold down here, stuff that's worth $20,000 a gram, but that's not even the tip of the iceberg."

It was around 11 p.m. when we reached the Mexican border, only to be turned away because Reeder couldn't enter without the title to his truck.

After putting up a fight--trying to call his wife, but being unable to reach her--Reeder was testy. Kenneth reacted by grating his teeth, rolling his eyes, anything to keep himself in check. That night, a dejected Reeder drove us back to Tucson, to the Baymont Inn.

Early the next morning at breakfast, Reeder told Kenneth that he had a vision last night in which God told him this trip would be successful. Kenneth simply nodded.

Soon, we rounded ourselves up into two vehicles: Reeder's truck, and a car he'd rented that morning. We were ready; Sandra Reeder had pulled through for her husband, faxed the necessary papers.

I rode alone with Gary, and he told me about his brief history with Kenneth: He had found him through an ad Kenneth had run for building computers. When they met, he told Reeder that he had once run a coal mine in Nigeria with 450 employees, and that now he had concessions to mines in Mexico, where he'd been pursuing his gold-mining dream for 10 years.

Kenneth, Reeder said, came from a religious family and went to a Catholic seminary for two years to become a priest, only to quit and break his mother's heart. "He had a different ambition," said Reeder. "To make a billion dollars by 40.

"He's 43 now, and he's gone through a lot," he added. "He's black. He's from Nigeria. Nigerians have been known to be con men and rip-off artists."

When asked if he doubted Kenneth, Reeder said, "I have doubts about everybody after what I've gone through. But I have a degree of trust in him that's growing stronger every day."

Right now, he senses that Kenneth shares the same dream "to help people."

For Reeder, that dream has been a long time in the making. He spoke of his childhood in Weatherford, how he grew up as one of five children. He was an active child; he rode bulls, boxed, raced motorcycles. Then, through no fault of his own--Reeder describes all of his life's misfortunes that way--he landed in jail in 1973.

"I ended up going to prison without a criminal record or anything," he says. "My mother got killed in a tornado, my baby sister ended up going to an orphanage, my brothers went their separate directions, I lost my wife and children. My wife divorced me. She was my high-school sweetheart; we were married for seven years..."

After all the heartache, Reeder says, it wasn't a coincidence that he met Kenneth. "It couldn't be," he says. "Before I met Kenneth, I was looking at gold mining."

And, if anything, last night's vision assured him that he was on to something godly. "The main thing I thought is that God's in charge of this entire endeavor," he says. He had even scribbled down God's message to him on the one scrap of paper he could find, a Baymont Inn brochure. He now gave it to me to read. "I have entrusted you with a great position of leadership," it read.

It's not the first time, he says, that he's had strange visions.

Take 1987, for example. "I had this dream one time, lucid state," he says. "Two guys were talking, and one said three words...I'll use another word in place of one. He said, 'Screw all that.' He didn't use 'screw,' he used the other word--the 'f' word."

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