Wild, Wild West

Once convicted of fraud and in debt to the IRS for a cool million, Steven West is some kind of businessman

In 1988, West's focus apparently shifted from legitimate buyouts to outright scamming. Along with his wife, Sherri, he sent out hundreds of letters inviting people to pay as much as $1000 to be included in a who's who directory. For this fee, respondents were told they'd receive a listing with a lengthy write-up and a color photo as well as a copy of the book and a plaque to hang on their office wall.

But some of the people who paid the fee were not pleased with the product. Instead of a book, they claimed, the Wests delivered a cheaply bound collection of photocopied pages. The write-ups were brief and riddled with errors, the photos grainy, black and white, and the size of postage stamps. Moreover, many of the victims -- 50 of whom were FBI agents -- never received a copy of the directory, and no one got a wall plaque. The Wests, however, grossed more than $14 million for their efforts. In 1992, federal agents seized the who's who records and brought charges of fraud and tax evasion against Steven and Sherri West.

Jordin Isip
Jordin Isip

On January 5, 1988, while federal investigators gathered evidence to use against the Wests, the 20,000-square-foot house they owned in the tony Long Island community of Mill Neck was destroyed by another fire. County investigators called it arson and named the Wests and a long list of others as potential suspects, but according to the New York Times, no one was ever charged.

The $1.3 million the Wests received from an insurance policy on the house was seized by the federal government on grounds that it had been paid for with tainted who's who dollars. The Times published three articles about the Wests and their house, the first in April 1990 and the last in March 1993, after Steven and Sherri West pleaded guilty to engineering the who's who scheme.

Both Wests accepted plea agreements: Sherri pleaded guilty to tax evasion and Steven to fraud and tax evasion. Steven also admitted evading $665,515.51 in income tax and $92,700 in payroll tax for 1986 alone and acknowledged that he opened bank accounts in his son's name to keep the funds from being detected. When detailing the who's who operation, Steven West confessed that he had made up impressive-sounding names, like "Thornton Rockefeller" and "Harlan Carnegie" to list as members of the who's who "selection committee" to deceive potential customers.

Steven accepted most of the responsibility and was sentenced to six months' house arrest, three years' probation, and a $50,000 fine. Sherri West received one year probation. Yet Leon LaPoint, a former business associate of West's, reports that within weeks, the illusionist was back trying to crack deals. This time, though, there was a fashionable twist. West started wearing cowboy boots with his expensive suits to hide a tracking anklet.

After pleading guilty, the Wests became full-time residents in South Florida. By 1996, they were living in a $350,000 Weston Hills Country Club home, and a chauffeur drove Steven West around in a leased Jaguar. West promoted himself as an Internet expert, designing Websites for tech-hungry companies willing to pay far above the market norm, the Miami Herald reported. He had also developed a side business traveling the country hosting Internet marketing seminars, for which attendees paid $99 a head.

As bills and taxes went unpaid, West's customers began alleging shoddy and incomplete performance. His activities caught the attention of Miami Herald reporter Jim McNair. McNair exhumed West's past, writing three articles for the Herald and spurring an August 17, 1996, editorial that questioned why a man with West's history was allowed to proceed unchecked by local authorities. "If a term of probation is to have meaning, someone should check on the continued business practices of convicted scamsters who enjoy the leniency of the courts," it reads.

Anthony Egitto is a heavyset man with dark-brown hair, piercing green eyes, a pronounced New Jersey accent, and a great affection for cats, motorcycles, and medieval history. He speaks of right and wrong as absolutes and maintains a Website (www.sirlancelot.com) where good always triumphs over evil, and he, Tony Egitto, is Sir Lancelot, the knight.

Egitto, who worked as controller of West Worldwide for five weeks in 2001, is quick to accuse his former boss. After just one week on the job, Egitto contends, he had doubts about West's operation. But he stayed for four more weeks to gather records and documents that he hoped would help prosecutors catch his boss. He collected all the papers in a black, three-ring binder with dividers and multicolored tabs. Recently, sitting at the kitchen table of his Pompano Beach apartment, he rifled through the three-inch-thick stack of documents.

"Dear Mr. Butterworth" begins a letter Egitto wrote to the Florida Attorney General on February 22, 2001. It refers to the Herald editorial about West and continues, "the 'slap on the wrist' that our government was so kind to grant this thief has allowed him to continue to hurt many businessmen and their families." A letter Egitto sent to Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris the same day is almost identical.

In these missives, Egitto accuses West of forging documents, laundering money, and evading income taxes. "He washes money through various banks and corporations in order to live an extravagant lifestyle," Egitto's letters allege. "I have countless documents showing his forgeries, fraud, and income tax evasion. This man thinks he is 'untouchable' and 'above the law.' It seems obvious to many of us good citizens that West can just do whatever he pleases and continue to hurt many people and their families and get away with it. What does it take to get the authorities to act?"

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Steven Samuel Watstein (aka Steven West, aka Marc DeCarlo, aka David Longmire, aka Bradley Stevenson, aka James London) allegedly appears to be a convicted felon of Broward County Florida operating various entities (Salespeople Are Us salespeopleareus.com, Wall Street Executive Group, Wall Street Advisory Associates WallStreetAdvisorAssociates.com, Wall Street Equity and Acquisitions Group wseag.com, Indiana Sanchez Skin Products, IS Proof Foundation isfoun.org, West Investment Banking, West Telemarketing Industries, etc etc) and is currently operating out of the McNab Executive Plaza at 1000 West McNab Road, Pompano Beach, Florida 33069 and in the past 405 North Avenue of the Arts Suite 104 Fort Lauderdale, FL 33311. Phone numbers are many but include 954-934-0800 and Cell 954-448-5500. Here is an example RipOff report on some of his alleged scams: