When Helpfulness Becomes Extortion

Dec 1, 2003 12:00 PM, LARRY ANDERSON, Editor

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“Weekly attacks designed to break the will of the average American will commence as bombings begin in public buses and metro rail facilities, coffee shops, malls and shopping centers.”

This scary scenario is described in “Terrorism Forecast: 2003,” a chilling eight-page analysis produced by Washington, D.C.-based Kerodin International Security and Policy Consultants.

“Across the business spectrum, the vast majority of companies are taking a far too lax posture on this security issue,” says consultant Christian Kerodin. “You need someone to identify the weak spots for the landlord and offer him some deterrent without breaking his budget.”

But Mr. Kerodin allegedly took an additional step toward dealing with the terrorist threat. In the process, he was arrested as a criminal.

Kerodin wrote top mall CEOs in the Washington, D.C., area and offered his services as a consultant. Allegedly included in the deal was exclusion of their shopping centers from mention in an upcoming blistering report he said he was preparing on mall security.

Not easily intimidated, the mall CEOs pooled their resources to investigate Mr. Kerodin, whose real name is Christian Hyman. After discovering that his experience as a security consultant was questionable, they called in the Department of Homeland Security. A Secret Service officer posing as a developer met with Hyman, who was arrested and charged with extortion after allegedly asking for a $120,000 payoff to “go away.”

How's that for a cautionary tale for security professionals looking to employ help from the consultancy community! I repeat the story here not as a broad indictment of consultants in general — some of our best friends are consultants! In fact, consultants in all their wide varieties provide a long list of invaluable services to the security community. Our industry would collapse without them.

But the Kerodin/Hyman incident does emphasize that charlatans exist in every field of endeavor. There is always someone on the edges looking for ways to “get rich quick” at the expense of others. I would question the wisdom of trying to con people who make their living in security, but unfortunately that's what many try to do.

A caveat to beware of snake oil salesmen bears repeating. The unsavory types can be found anywhere — among equipment suppliers, dealer/installers and, yes, even consultants.

In the security realm, there has never been more at stake than since Sept. 11. There has never been a better time to heed a simple and age-old warning.

Buyer beware.

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