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."