Authors: Aaron Goldberg
Tags: #Taled of Real Life Disney Scandals, #Accidents and Deaths, #Sex
By the eleventh hour, with a change in hostage negotiators and upon hearing a recorded message featuring his children saying, "I love you, Daddy'' and "Please come out,'' Bismark walked out peacefully. He was charged with kidnapping, false imprisonment, aggravated battery, assault, shooting within a building, and attempted first-degree murder in a plot to kill Alex; if convicted on all charges, he could have faced life in prison.
Shortly after the situation, Rafael quit his position and sued Disney over being held hostage at work. He settled his lawsuit for an undisclosed amount almost immediately after it was filed. As for Bismark, an Orange County jury found him guilty of false imprisonment and two other counts for taking his son and Rafael hostage. They found him not guilty of the more serious charges of kidnapping and aggravated battery.
During the trial, Bismark took the stand and told the courtroom he never intended to hurt anyone and only wanted to see his children. He said he suffers from severe anxiety and a fear of crowds. "To this day, I can't figure out where my mind went.”
The next story features someone who may as well been on the Disney payroll. He’s a man who lived much of his adult life as a walking billboard for Disney. George, who many call a character in his own right, is also known as the “Disney tattoo guy.”
George had over 2,200 Disney tattoos covering his body from head to toe. As he explained during many interviews, his childhood was very unhappy. The one thing that did make him happy was Disney. Over the next five decades, George became obsessed with all things Disney, from the 15,000 items in his Disney-themed home to the hundreds of trips to the parks. In all, his Disney indulgence cost him about $50,000 a year.
But all was not happy in the world of George. By 2010, he was undergoing Disney fatigue. He was tired of signing autographs and of the attention everywhere he went. He auctioned off the collection and started to slowly have his tattoos removed. Perhaps all of this happened because George found a new love, the love of a woman. In July of 2011, George too was charged with false imprisonment, criminal mischief, and misdemeanor battery. Where did the alleged crime take place? You guessed it, in his hotel room at Walt Disney World, with his fiancée.
If you think George spending $50,000 a year on Disney is a bit much, how about spending $400,000 on a trip to Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney World? This is the amount of money spent by Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo (the first few words are a title, Menteri Besar is the head of the executive branch of government in Malaysia, in the state of Selangor).
Let’s just call him Toyo to make the story a bit easier. In December of 2004, Toyo took the family over to Disneyland Paris. Feeling the need to see the mouse once again, this time on his home turf, Toyo and family, complete with his maid and staff, went down to Walt Disney World. The two trips cost in excess of $400,000 and were complete with a rented Mercedes, presidential suites, and the travel accommodations for a group of traditional dancers from his country to greet him when he arrived at each location.
The reason for the trip? Toyo called it a “technical” visit for the government. Unless you call a face-to-face meeting with Mickey and Minnie in the parks a meeting of the minds, Toyo failed to meet with anyone from Disney in regards to the technicality of their parks.
Toyo and the man involved in this next story have a lot in common. They both blew through hundreds of thousands of dollars with reckless abandon and ended up in Walt Disney World. Both men also used other people’s money to get there. However, their visits were vastly different. From 2006 to 2011, forty-five-year-old Jeffrey of Dublin, Ohio, ran a Ponzi scheme through his companies Superior Financial Resources and J.G. Kelly Equities. Jeffrey said his two companies dealt in stocks, annuities, and real estate trusts. He boasted that he could offer clients a 7-10% return on their investment, even in the down economy.
Nearly twenty people invested to the tune of $1.5 million. After time, the schemes started to collapse under themselves, as the world saw with Bernie Madoff. These enterprises need to continually bring in new money to cover what money goes out to investors or is illegally pilfered by the mastermind behind it. Eventually it all starts to catch up. By 2011, this was what happened with Jeffrey’s scam.
Little money was coming in and his personal indulgences with other people’s money were draining the coffers. Feeling the pressure, he left Ohio and decided to head down to the Happiest Place On Earth, where he started work as a boat captain. As we know, the Feds always get their man. FBI agents tracked Jeffrey down at work and arrested him while he was working at Walt Disney World. In December of 2012, he was indicted in U.S. District Court on seventeen counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, and interstate transport of fraudulently acquired securities. In March of 2014, Jeffrey was sentenced to five years in prison.
The next crazy story takes us aboard a Disney cruise ship. The actions of a few cast members aboard the Disney Magic brought new meaning to the phrase “life on the high seas.” In August of 2012, People Magazine and the Daily Mirror of the United Kingdom both ran stories about the crew members aboard the Disney Magic, and their affinity for cocaine.
A whistleblower aboard took pictures of several cast members allegedly doing cocaine and leaked them to the media. The crew was often seen in the photos cutting up and assembling their lines of nose candy with their Disney identification cards. But what would be some casual drug use without some casual random sex (note, the author does not condone either practice!)? As the stories quote from some of the participants, the activities were quite rampant:
“It’s all very family-friendly. On deck, you have people in Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck outfits performing tricks. But downstairs, staff are sniffing coke. So many people are doing it, it’s an open secret. People even do it during their shift. Staff work very long hours and it’s their only release. We’d go to whorehouses when we were docked. Or if we were at sea we would have wild parties in the cabins. You’d just lock the door and a few people would be sniffing almost straight away. Crew would all be sleeping with each other too. Girls never said no when they were high – it was wild. These parties happened almost every night. There were loads of girls around, people went crazy. People did coke during their shift, then at 11:00
., as soon as you finished, you would have a party straight away and stay up all night, taking cocaine and drinking. Some people would go straight back to work. It’s dangerous. The attitude seemed to be, as long as you smiled at the guests and did your job properly, it did not really matter what you did.”
Can’t get much crazier than snorting coke and going back to work to interact with families and spread the Magic of Disney aboard the Magic. Perhaps the ship's crew needed to take a trip over to Disney, Oklahoma, town of 200—with no relation to Walt, of course—which advertises a heck of a drug rehab facility for those addicted; seriously, I’m not making this stuff up.
On that note, in an effort to close out Plain Crazy on a high note—sorry, couldn’t help myself with that one—how about a little creative craziness from a young couple. Why drop tens of thousands of dollars on a Disney wedding when a little ingenuity can deliver the same wow factor for just the price of admission?
On September 19, 2013, Tory and his soon-to-be bride, Nikki boarded boats at Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean with their family and friends. Their mission was to tie the knot on the ride. Over the years Disney cast members have traded stories about couples feeling amorous and engaging in some lewd acts as they traverse the dark rides. There have even been cases where family members have scattered loved ones' ashes through the Haunted Mansion or Pirates of the Caribbean. But Tory and Nikki were bringing things full circle with Captain Jack Sparrow as their witness.
Just after the attraction's second drop, Tory’s friend got the nuptials started with a two-minute ceremony complete with the exchange of rings. By the time the newlyweds were at the battle scene with the large ship, they were already married. Some savvy planning and a secret seating chart allowed the couple to ask cast members to keep their friends and family together in each boat to witness the ceremony.
There you have it, a unique Disney wedding, orchestrated by a guy who named his children from a previous marriage Ariel, Belle, and Orlando. Now that is some Disney dedication and craziness—take
Disney tattoo guy!
Theft and Fraud
Over the decades, Disney has accumulated countless accolades. They have been Fortune Magazine's most admired company and Forbes Magazine's most reputable company, to recount a few. One of the things that helped Disney earn these titles and set them apart from other companies is their customer service. Disney’s customer service starts with employees that buy into "The Disney Way.”
Walt started "The Disney Way” back in 1955 with the opening of Disneyland. His rules were rigid and his expectations were high for his cast members. Clean-cut, big smile, and always looking to lend a hand were the cornerstones. At times, Disney cast members and a few other folks have lost their way. They went astray of not only The Disney Way, but also the law, especially when money was involved.
In August of 2013, Disney suspected a housekeeper from their All-Star Resorts hotel at Walt Disney World of stealing after several guests reported cash missing from their rooms, and twenty-nine-year-old Bruna cleaned each one. Disney security and the Orange County Tourism Police unit set up a sting operation. They planted a wallet in a dresser with $100 inside and another $400 in the locked room safe. With hidden cameras in the room, authorities witnessed Bruna take $20 from the money planted in the safe. Upon approaching her about the theft, she denied doing anything. After recording the serial numbers on the bills and then comparing them to ones in her possession, this proved otherwise. She was arrested and charged with petty theft.
Another noteworthy theft took place at Walt Disney World in April of 2006. An undercover sting operation would not be needed to catch someone stealing $20. This theft was much more brazen and bold. Jamie, forty years old, was stealing the cash registers from various stores on Disney property; yes, you read that correctly, stealing the entire cash register. Jamie would go into the stores during the day when they weren’t as crowded. He waited until the clerk was distracted and then cut the wires. This allowed for the registers to drop into a garbage bag, and he then took off on foot. He hit eight cash registers in all from the Magic Kingdom, The Polynesian Resort and few others. He was eventually spotted at the Pop Century where he was apprehended and arrested. Jamie was doing this to support his crack cocaine habit. Guess the Disney Magic wasn’t hiring at the time!
Someone once asked Willie Sutton, one of the most notorious bank robbers of the twentieth century, why he robbed banks. His response was brilliant, yet simple: “because that’s where the money is.” A few folks on Disney property tweaked Willie’s retort and replaced the notion of a bank with Walt Disney World. Ever since the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World was built in 1971, people have been enamored with the underground tunnels that exist as a thoroughfare for employees to navigate the park below ground.
The Utilidoors have become a thing of urban legend and Disney lore. People often try and sneak in to see what is really going on down there. Is this where some of the illustrious top-secret Disney magic originates before it finds its way above ground and entertains the masses? Perhaps, perhaps not, depends on your imagination.
What does traverse the Utilidoor system is often very magical in its own right: cold hard cash. In January of 1986, three cast members were shuttling cash through the tunnels at 2:15
. when they were robbed at gunpoint. Two men got away with cash bags through a stairwell that led to an employee parking lot. A hauntingly similar thing happened ten years later in July of 1996. This time, three men held up two workers at gunpoint underground. The men grabbed ten cash bags and went above ground to exit the Magic Kingdom just before midnight as the park was still filled with guests. Both crimes were immediately considered “inside jobs,” as the tunnel system is secure. In both cases the criminals appeared to know specifics by either working there or being informed by someone who worked at Disney. The robbers were eventually apprehended in both situations.
Another theft happened in March of 1993, when a Wells Fargo courier was charged with stealing $20,500 that he was supposed to transport from Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Over four separate trips, Ramirez stole money from the back of his transport truck by stuffing the cash into his shoes and jacket pockets. Investigators noticed Ramirez had made a $13,000 down payment on a 1993 Pontiac Grand Prix, and paid off his credit card and phone bill. He was arrested on one count of grand theft.
Moving along to some white-collar crimes, in October of 2012, a former Walt Disney World employee was accused of falsifying $120,000 in liability claims. Gregory was a forty-six-year-old Disney claims representative. He was responsible for investigating claims made against the resort by guests who allegedly had bodily injury or property damage while on Disney property. After investigating a claim, if he deemed it legitimate, Gregory could then offer compensation and negotiate settlements on behalf of Disney to settle the matter. He did so without needing approval from a supervisor.
Gregory’s position led him to whip up some creative claims. Between January and June 2009, Gregory authorized eighteen fraudulent insurance settlement payments totaling $122,858. Through an elaborate scheme, he would either add payments to existing claims and get paid on it, or increase the seriousness of the claims and add or change the recipient's name to divert the money to a fraudulent billing service in Georgia. After doing this, Gregory would then distribute the funds to his co-conspirators in both New York and Georgia. The six-figure payout in such a short period of time was an anomaly for Disney accounting. The department noticed the large payouts and investigated. After Disney figured out the scheme, Gregory was arrested on seventeen felony charges of insurance fraud and racketeering.