Friday, June 22, 2007

For love and money, Part 1.

"Gerry and I were married 20 years, almost to the day he left," says Ginny. "His growth"—she speaks the word with sarcasm, then pauses to correct herself—"his descent into self-help was a long-term process. I could keep you on the phone till midnight."

Gerry* worked in the family business but, to Ginny's mind, was never that happy there. His brother, Rob, agrees: "He's always been a dreamer. He's usually worked for my father or my mother, or for me briefly. But he'd make little comments about being 'oppressed by the fluorescence' and so forth."

Still, says Ginny, "I don't doubt for a moment that he loved me. We had the marriage everybody wanted. It was sexy; it was fun. Now, did he love me the way I loved him? I'd have to say no. For one thing, he was always the fair-haired boy who put his mother first. I called it a Norman Bates relationship. And in the last 10 years or so, she was the one who got him involved in the whole Alan Cohen thing.”** Ginny refers to the well-known Chicken Soup contributor and driving force behind the Insights for Richer Living mentorship seminars. Like Tony Robbins' Life Mastery courses, these pricey shindigs often take place in lush, exotic locales. This year's menu, for example, includes an Alaskan "cruise to self-discovery" and a "journey to the heart of Bali."

Ginny continues, "I think it started to get really weird a year ago May [2006]. He just got so entrenched in this feel-good mentality that I couldn't even have the news on, I couldn't have Law & Order on. He said he 'couldn't have that kind of destruction' in his life." She also noticed that her husband was spending a lot of time online. It was the kind of sign that's curious but not yet ominous (though later, in hindsight, is recognizable as part of a pattern that seems clear as a bell). By this point, Gerry and his mother had already gone to Cohen seminars in St. John's and Hawaii. Then, says Ginny, "They decided to go to the one in Fiji."

Gerry returned from Fiji to Long Island with big news. "He tells me he's met a woman and has a tremendous emotional connection with. Her name is Catherina Rodrigues,* and she lives in Australia. She's married and has a daughter, just like us. And she's trying to launch a company, Think Love, which is designed to spread love and happiness and tranquility around the world. So I ask, 'Gerry, Is there anything I need to know?' And he says, 'Absolutely not. I still love you, et cetera.' So I thought a minute and said, 'Does she know about the money?' "

Ahhh yes, the money. Gerry recently had learned that he'd be receiving a very large inheritance—well into six figures. Ginny wondered how a woman seeking to finance a chancy new business venture might regard a sweet-natured, like-minded man who was about to come into serious cash. She also wondered about her husband's vulnerability to such a woman. Already, Ginny felt that the inheritance had affected Gerry's judgment and ability to think rationally. "I think he knew that it was his ticket to move away from his job, to travel the world, to sail the high seas," she says. "But we had a kid, for one thing, a teenager in high school. I was not going to sell my house and move onto a sailboat."

She soon began to get the idea that her husband's newfound spiritual ally had no such qualms. Though Gerry shrugged off Ginny's concerns about the money and Catherina's possible designs on same, Ginny was deeply troubled by what she saw happening in front of her: "They began to do a lot of talking on the phone. The calls just never stopped. Or Gerry's phone would ring every 20 minutes with text messages. He would never go to bed." To this day, she says, she still doesn't know whether the fateful meeting in Fiji happened just by chance, or was an arranged rendezvous. "But in my heart of hearts," she says, "I know that she fell in love with him there. She was willing to go with him to sail the 7 Seas, she was willing to leave her husband and her 7-year-old daughter. But back then, he would deny, deny, deny."

By the fall, plans had been made for Catherina to visit Long Island—a visit that would end up lasting six full weeks. "She comes with her husband and daughter," says Ginny. "I insisted that they can't be in this house—they were supposed to be staying at a hotel—but I was fighting a force and I was never going to win. It was ridiculous. [She and Gerry] would be singing spiritual songs in the living room. They'd be online together, or doing yoga together." Despite the original plans, Rodrigues and family seemed to be spending almost all of their time either at Ginny and Gerry's residence or, more often, at a vacation property Gerry and Rob then shared in Sag Harbor, deep in the lotus-land of Eastern Long Island. Gerry would accompany them there.

Rob, too, was growing uneasy, in part because, from the moment Catherina stepped off the plane, he says, "Gerry never went back to work." But Rob and his wife Jayne became even more uneasy as they learned new details about the nature of the financial dealings between Gerry and Catherina. "My brother has never really lied to me," Rob recalls. "But after [Fiji] he was deceitful, and it became more and more apparent that he was using his [self-help] learnings to manipulate the situation. First he invites Catherina, telling me she's just coming here 'with her family.' He tells me they have a spiritual bond and he'd like to be involved with her project. Then it turns out she's going to stay in our house out east. Then it turns out he hired her as a life coach—for almost five grand. Then it turns out he paid for her airplane tickets!”

Rob and Jayne's first face-to-face meeting with Catherina was a revelation in its own right. "My mother and brother are born a week apart in October," says Rob, "so I take the family out to dinner at a place here on Long Island—the whole group of them, including Catherina, her husband, everybody. They'd arrived October 8, and this was like October 20. We sit down at the restaurant, and Gerry and Catherina only interacted with themselves the whole time. They were knee to knee, turned towards each. I mean, I've seen horny 15-year-olds act with more respect for others! They completely ignored everyone else. They sat about as far from the rest of us as was possible."

Though others in attendance immediately sized things up and felt that Gerry and Catherina were rubbing Ginny's nose in it—Catherina's husband, for one, looked dazed—Ginny, it appears, remained loyal and, quite likely, in denial. "She's old-school Italian," explains Jayne. "You just couldn't say anything bad about her husband."

Rob, on the other hand, had no problems confronting his brother after dinner. "I said to him, 'What the hell is wrong with you? What the hell are you doing?' I couldn't get a straight answer. It's like later, when I'd ask about his business plan and I'd get the buzzwords, the cliched answer. He'd say something like, 'You're only asking that out of fear.' No, Gerry, I'm asking that out of common sense and concern for you." According to Rob and Jayne, their concerns were of such magnitude that they had a background check run on Catherina. Though such matters must be treated with a certain delicacy here, they say that the results did not allay their fears.

Even so, Ginny says that she could read Catherina's growing frustration with Gerry's remaining commitment to his existing family: "I made only one stipulation, and that was that he come home and spend every night in our house. And he did. He'd come home at 1 or 1:30 a.m., but he did come home. I think she knew she could get him—if she could just get him away from me long enough."

NEXT WEEK: Catherina prevails...the intervention that didn't happen...and, once again, the innocents left holding the bag.


* Neither Gerry nor Catherina Rodrigues responded to my attempts to reach them for comment.
** My emails seeking a comment from Alan Cohen went unanswered. Ginny wants to make clear that she generally respects Cohen's "good work" and does not hold him or his personal beliefs responsible for what took place here. As for me, I'll have more to say on this, later.


Cosmic Connie said...

Another sad story... Actually, I am fighting mad for Ginny's sake (and for the sake of Gerry's brother and the rest of the family). I went to Catherina Rodrigues' web site and the copy reads just like that of every other New-Wage b.s. artist -- flowery nonsense. And on that little preview movie of Catherina... do I detect a bit of music that was "borrowed" from Enigma's "Return To Innocence"? I wonder if she has permission to use it?

DaveB said...

I think Gerry may be bi-polar. I had a boss with the exact same story - literally - turned out he was bipolar and was committed and somehow got over the mess.... You need to check into the symptoms of bipolar disorder.

S.H.A.M. Scam Sam said...

People who use phrases, like "making a connection" and "soulmate" creep me out now,...

moi said...

That's an interesting story. Catherina sounds like a spiritual Doña Juana. During the time I was into new age, I came across several people like her- mostly men, but I know the variety exists among women as well. They should be tatooed with warning signs on their foreheads. I feel very sorry for the victims of those kinds of people

Bill said...

This story sounds like an organized con job to separate Gerry from his inheritance by tapping into his lost soul. I bet the next installment will include how Gerry invested in her business. I wonder if Catherina’s husband is part of the con? Looks like it.

Catherina does not look like or sound like a life coach.

Steve Salerno said...

Bill, well, you're a couple of installments behind...we finished the story on the blog (with Part 3) a few days ago. But you're right: The evidence, including Gerry's own statements to Ginny, suggests that he did, indeed, invest in the business. I can't say definitively whether Catherina's husband ever had any role in this gambit, but it would appear today that he's another innocent victim. As is their daughter.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know Gerry's last name? I think I may have been scammed by them.

Anonymous said...

I saw their website, When I first read this blog and saw their website, it had their last names. Catherina Rodrigues, Gerry O'Gorman and two other guys. I think one was Chris Hindle and the other was Jon Schultz. Sounds like they got two more people into this with them. It looks like they are selling clothing and some kind of bracelet that says think love on it. I wonder if the bracelet is a scam too because you can't buy it, but you can preorder it. Do you think they are just trying to make money on products? What is this think love thing anyway?