Saturday, November 8, 2008

Birmingham Conwoman preys on 9/11 heroes - Sunday Mercury

A CONVICTED Midlands fraudster is facing an FBI probe after being accused of trying to rip-off heroes of 9/11 in an £80 million scam.

Former Black Country businesswoman Gill Hope allegedly targeted ex-New York fireman Vincent Forras who worked at Ground Zero in the vain search for survivors in 2001.

The brave firefighter now battles for compensation for emergency workers who suffered health problems in the aftermath of the terrorist attack.

He was recently approached by the former fraudster, via Facebook, and says she offered his charity £80 million if it could raise the same amount – and allow her access to the cash.

Speaking from his home in Connecticut, Mr Forras said: “This woman is a disgrace and what she is trying to do is deplorable.

“I knew something wasn’t right from the start but I was amazed to see how quickly our communication went from friendly introductions to talk about millions of dollars.”

Hope, originally from Wolverhampton, strongly denies the claims.

Mr Forras set up his Gear Up Foundation after the 9/11 attacks. He has been fated for his tireless charity work by the likes of former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani and Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

But his high-profile role attracted the attention of Hope.

The firefighter said: “She approached me on Facebook and proposed that she had already secured £80 million and just needed to set up final meetings in New York with the Mayor and people like that.

“I knew something was not quite right but I was amazed to discover the truth about her past when I found previous Sunday Mercury articles about her on-line.

“I told the FBI immediately who are currently investigating. To think she would try and do this to the firefighters who responded to Ground Zero on 9/11 when I lost so many brothers is disgusting.”

It is not the first time Hope, formerly known as Gill Edwards and who now calls herself an ‘Ambassador’, has caused controversy in the USA. We previously revealed how she had transformed herself into a bizarre Mother Teresa-style figure, who claimed to know President Bush and A-list celebrities including Angelina Jolie and Elton John.

She also once posed as a nun and appeared in bizarre videos on YouTube to promote her supposed humanitarian work.

Hope fled Britain in 2002 while a warrant was out for her arrest for charges brought by the then Department of Trade and Industry. But it was withdrawn in June 2004 after the authorities failed to trace her.

Yet she was a one-time star of the Midlands’ business world.

In 1988 she scooped the prestigious British Sales and Marketing Award – but after that things went downhill.

Marketing and advertising company E.G. Group of Dudley, where she was managing director, collapsed with debts of almost £250,000.

She later became a director of Global Vouchers plc, of Redditch, Worcestershire, but this firm also crashed with £600,000 debts.

Yet despite being insolvent, the firm carried on trading.

Hope was the only director to be prosecuted and was jailed for 12 months in 1994 for fraudulent trading. She was also disqualified from being a company director for seven years. The fraudster eventually skipped Britain for the US after failing to turn up at court to answer charges brought by the Department of Trade and Industry.

Yet when contacted by the Sunday Mercury, Hope claimed that the 9/11 scam accusations were completely false.

She said: “I think Vinny has misinterpreted our discussions and requests as we have not made any offer of funding to Gear Up Foundation. We have developed a solution for these unmet social needs including two financing offers.

“This is a serious humanitarian and Homeland Security issue and needs to be addressed.

“It would be awesome if you would actually write about what’s possible with imagination, innovation and a desire to provide solutions.”

* To donate to the Gear Up Foundation visit www.gearupfoundation.org

Sunday Mercury: source

There was an error in this gadget