Monday, October 20, 2008

When fandom goes too far...

You may remember my frequent references to Moonlight and my disappointment over its untimely cancellation by CBS. I still think it was killed off way before its time, but that's not the point. "Moonlight" fans sometimes really put the "cult" in "cult following"--there were numerous fan-driven attempts to get another network to pick up the show, including a blood drive (Give blood. The vampires will thank you!) and various letter-writing campaigns. All very harmless, and the blood drive was definitely a good thing. But there's a dark side to all of this. True Moonlight fans felt that the fandom was a community, or a big family, and they were drawn to the fan sites like Moonlight Army and Moonlight Line. The latter was run by a woman named Lisa Gerry, screen name (alias) "Leeser."

At first, she was the champion for the "Renew Moonlight" cause; she had "insider contacts" (though the smart ones questioned how reliable they were) and insisted that there was still a chance that the show would be picked up by another station. One of her ideas was to buy ad space on buses in LA, to get the word out. One fan kindly donated a large sum of money to be used for the ad campaign (I won't go into specifics, but we're talking thousands of dollars here). There were no bus ads. The money was never seen again.

Edit: Apparently, the bus ads have appeared, but there is still some controversy as to what happened to the money. Leeser has claimed that $3k was in her purse when it was stolen (LESSON TO ALL: Don't give money to people who walk around with $3 thousand IN CASH...whether it's true or not, that's just stupid). There are also allegations that she pocketed the money earned at the Moonlight Convention (aptly abbreviated "MoonlightCon.") For more information, you can visit the Lisa Gerry website.

Thanks to those who corrected me; I am admittedly not as involved as some other Moonlight fans, and I am also prone to human error and bias. Also, my information came from "lisagerry.com" which is also decidedly "anti-Leeser." I'm sure there are "pro-Leeser" sites out there, and if anyone would like to leave a link to such feel free. I didn't write this blog entry to start a controversy. If anything, I was writing to show the danger of getting too involved in anything. If this turns into a bitter argument, it will only prove my point. At some point, I realized I'd rather have a life.


It's logical to blame the one who gave the money to Leeser (who has been re-dubbed "Lesser" on some sites), but you have to understand that Moonlight went WAY beyond a TV show for a lot of the fans. It was probably a combination of many different things. Even before the show was canceled, it had a huge online following. Moonlight's cancellation was unexpected--a lot of the fans still blame CBS for leading us to believe the show would be renewed for a second season--and it really felt like we'd lost something special. Not as bad as a death in the family; maybe more like finding out your best friend is moving to Antarctica. Or Mars. We were all frantic, and I think a common reaction was to go through the five stages of grief. Our show was in danger, and we had to save it as quickly as possible.

The Internet can really bring people together. For better or for worse. Interestingly enough, Leeser's popularity started disappearing even before the fraud was discovered and publicized. At some point, most of the fans realized had reached "Acceptance"--the show is gone, it's not coming back, so make sure you buy the DVD set--but Leeser was still stuck somewhere between "Denial" and "Bargaining." She was seen as the leader of the fans who refused to believe that the show was over, and charged with creating false hope. Then the fraud came to light.

This is a textbook-case example of "Affinity Fraud":
Affinity fraud refers to investment scams that prey upon members of identifiable groups, such as religious or ethnic communities, the elderly, or professional groups. The fraudsters who promote affinity scams frequently are - or pretend to be - members of the group. They often enlist respected community or religious leaders from within the group to spread the word about the scheme, by convincing those people that a fraudulent investment is legitimate and worthwhile. Many times, those leaders become unwitting victims of the fraudster's ruse.

These scams exploit the trust and friendship that exist in groups of people who have something in common. Because of the tight-knit structure of many groups, it can be difficult for regulators or law enforcement officials to detect an affinity scam. Victims often fail to notify authorities or pursue their legal remedies, and instead try to work things out within the group. This is particularly true where the fraudsters have used respected community or religious leaders to convince others to join the investment.
(http://www.sec.gov/investor/pubs/affinity.htm)

The moral of our story is: Hmmm, that's a toughie.

"Don't give money to people you don't know"? Sounds good, but what constitutes "knowing" someone? If you've had numerous conversations over the Internet, and you know lots of useless personal information about someone (favorite movie, birthday, favorite bands) how different is that from the friends you talk to face-to-face?

"Don't give large sums of money to anyone"? Paranoid much??

I've got it: "Use extreme caution when giving money to people you meet online."

7 comments:

Farmwife said...

BIG CORRECTION. The bus ads were completely paid for and are on the LA Transit buses at the moment near Burbank. Link to photos of the ads. http://moonlightfans.com/index.php?option=com_fireboard&Itemid=35&func=view&catid=49&id=274841 Please make the correction in your blog.

CardinalGal said...

The information that you have posted regarding the Save Moonlight Bus Ads is incorrect.
The bus ads were indeed completely paid for and the bus ads went up on Los Angeles Transit buses. You can see pictures of them at http://moonlightfans.com/index.php?option=com_fireboard&Itemid=35&func=view&catid=49&id=274841

Anonymous said...

The bus ads were to appear in August, they didn't go up until two weeks ago and ONLY after the donor demanded an explanation for a) the missing bus ads and/or b) the missing money. At which point the excuses started, one of them was that 3k of the money was stolen from her and she was too embarrassed to file a report with the police or too mention it online or to the donor. The money was never transferred to the printer in time for deadline first time around.. not even a partial payment (even minus the 3k 'claimed stolen'.. by the way the total was reported to be around 11k.. yep, 11k). Said ad was finally placed only after the questions started flying online and on Leeser's own website. It was reported that the final payment was made by a flurry of Leeser's credit card payments, leaving the question what happened to the 8k that wasn't stolen?
And this was only the beginning of the house of cards falling down.

The Moonlight fanbase which is a compassionate, giving and sincere fraternity has suffered greatly and unnecessarily for this woman's fraud and deceit over the last year.

Anonymous said...

The intital payment - which was never made and reported to be "stolen" was still in Gerry's possession (even if it was stolen) AFTER the original due date.

The money was supposed to be paid in full months ago. It wasn't until the anon. donor was forced to come forward and demand answers, and then those answers were never given.

There's also qustion about proceeds (in the thousands) from a "non-profit" fan - convention.

Not to mention the questionable activites that came to light about secret behind the scenes fund raising for "gifts" and the like for cast and crew.

Fans started checking this person out and found several disturbing things that another Anon. individual put together at LisaGerry.com. Moonlighline was only one part of a serious pattern

lindyrb said...

Monica, I'm glad you realise you may have gotten some rather biased info from the website you mentioned. Unfortunately, you've kinda waded into the middle of a very nasty attack. The kind where the attackers post as "Anonymous" or claim to have proof that nobody ever actually sees.

The bus ads are up. The con was held at the Westin LAX with nearly 200 in attendance and panels with three writers and two exec producers. Photos online showed donations being made for everything from Toys for Tots to Starbucks cards for the crew, to feeding the writers during the strike (weekly!), to the LA Food Bank (more than once), and so on.

And nobody's mentioned that Lisa is left holding the tax bill that's going to have to be paid at the end of the year. Yep...she'll have to pay thousands in taxes on all those activities and I'll bet none of those accusers took the time to figure those costs into their guestimated expenses lists.

I miss Moonlightline.com and the wonderful community we had and all the fun our "tribe" had. I made wonderful friends and we haven't given up our Freshie get-togethers! It's sad how just a handful of negative people can plant the seeds of distrust with innuendo and accusations without any concrete proof and destroy it all.

LighterThanUsual said...

lindyrb, you are living in a fantasy. Sleezer, and daughter, appears to be living her life as a grifter, from one state to another to another. She scams and cheats people for a living, leaving a trail of people online wondering what happened to their money and what happened to her.

A few negative people? Most of us got a clue. And one wonderful lady helped us all see the truth. The truth shall set you free, lindyrb.

lafluffy said...

lindyrb,

Did you enjoy the big beds you and Leeser slept in in the Presidential suite while the person who paid for the suite slept on the couch because "there was no more room"?

And you are right about concrete proof. Lisa Gerry has shown no concrete accounting figures for all the influx and outflow of monies for several projects through her numerous PayPal accounts. That is a fact. And there are plenty more facts on lisagerry.com. And the IRS and FBI and LE have been informed of these facts. You, on the other hand, haven't offered a single fact in her defense- only hearsay.

So it doesn't matter what spin you try to put on it. Like the Moonlight Con taxes. Considering that it's a fact that Leeser registered the convention as a charitable trust, this just makes you look like a lying mouthpiece.

Some people were brainwashed by her and I think some people also stood to gain something from the multi-faceted dominatrix/porn queen/minister/"schoolteacher". Grifters do welcome sidekicks. What did you gain, lindyrb?