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James Randi’s partner pleads guilty to passport fraud
Posted: 19 April 2012 10:08 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Longtime companion of James “The Amazing” Randi could face deportation

WEST PALM BEACH — A celebrated local artist who lived for 24 years under a stolen identity pleaded guilty Wednesday to a passport fraud charge, leaving him to fight deportation to his native Venezuela.

Deyvi Pena, 50, spent most of his adult life as “Jose Luis Alvarez” with his colorful, modernist paintings exhibited in New York, Miami and San Francisco. He often could be found by the side of his longtime companion, the famed magician and professional skeptic James “The Amazing” Randi.

Pena’s lie unraveled when the real Jose Luis Alvarez, a teacher’s aide from the Bronx, applied for a passport in 2010 and federal authorities figured out that one had already been issued under that name. Pena was arrested in September at the Plantation home he shares with Randi, admitting his true identity six weeks later so he and Randi could post a million-dollar bond to get him out of jail.

Pena, whose full name is Deyvi Orangel Pena Arteaga, could face up to 10 years in federal prison when he is sentenced May 17 by Senior U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley. Pena’s attorney, Susan Dmitrovsky, said he could be sentenced to probation under the recommended federal sentencing guidelines.

She said that when Pena was an art student in New York City he took on a new identity so he didn’t have to go back to Venezuela and continue to face “horrific persecution” as a gay man. He resolved not to go back to Venezuela after someone had put a gun to his head in a bar, Dmitrovsky said outside of court.

Pena believed he was taking on the name, date of birth and Social Security number of a dead man, his attorney said.

“It was done strictly for survival,” Dmitrovsky said. “It was a deep secret that he’s glad is now out in the open.”

When Hurley asked Pena about his residency status, the artist responded, “Right now, I’m illegal basically.” The judge warned Pena that after his sentencing, it was a certainty that immigration authorities would launch deportation proceedings.

Dmitrovsky said Pena has immigration attorneys who will be fighting to get him asylum.

Pena stole the identity a year before he began traveling with Randi in the magician’s crusade to expose mystics, faith healers and psychics as frauds. Randi testified at an October court hearing to Pena’s true identity, acknowledging he had seen Pena’s Venezuelan passport years ago.

Randi, 83, is perhaps the best-known figure in the international skeptic community, once having been a regular on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.” A winner of the MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant for his work, Randi has a standing offer to pay $1 million to anyone who can scientifically demonstrate they possess genuine supernatural powers.

Randi attended Wednesday’s court hearing, but Dmitrovsky said that neither he nor Pena are talking to reporters about the case until after Pena’s sentencing.

I’m aware this story is a little dusty, but I’ve only just read it in ForteanTimes and couldn’t find it on a search of this site.

I can’t say that, as a sceptic, I feel any affinity with Randi and the movements with which he’s associated. I see him as a necessary evil. I suspect if everyone in the world thought the way he does, we’d still all be huddled in caves saying things like, “Don’t be daft, Og. You couldn’t have done that. Fire can only be made in volcanoes and by lightening.”

On deciding to post this story here, I was going to point out the obvious fact that we should be suspicious of anyone claiming to be a defender of true knowledge, whatever its source, when they are involved in any way in a fraud. Not that I’m suggesting Randi is guilty of any wrong doing, but merely that it shows we can all be fooled, or make mistakes in our beliefs, or fool others to aid ourselves. However, in Googling the story to post it here, I found something which actually disturbed me a little.

Fact is, if you try to Google this story, you’ll mostly find it mentioned as news on fringe sites, uncritically dedicated to exactly the sort of stuff James Randi was an opponent of. Homeopathy sites, free energy sites, sites about cryptids, crystals, various alternative therapies and shades of spirituality all jumped at the chance to say, “Hay, ‘The Amazing’ Randi’s boyfriend’s an identity fraudster,” yet it seems hardly worthy of a paragraph anywhere else. Which, when you consider that the story doesn’t really have anything much to do with the subjects those sites generally discuss, but is of interest at least as celebrity gossip, I thought was as good an example of media bias as I’ve ever seen.

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Posted: 19 April 2012 10:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I suspect if everyone in the world thought the way he does, we’d still all be huddled in caves

Funny that you say that, knowing Randi is fighting “cave like” mumbo dumbassery.
So, what I get so far, is that you don´t like Randi and have a very tricky and devious way to try to put Randi (and this post isn´t about Randi but about a friend of him) in a bad light.

It says so much about you and not about Randi.

 

 

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Posted: 19 April 2012 11:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Which, when you consider that the story doesn’t really have anything much to do with the subjects those sites generally discuss, but is of interest at least as celebrity gossip, I thought was as good an example of media bias as I’ve ever seen.

Or it could be completely fabricated..oh wait it’s the internet. They’d never do that.

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Posted: 19 April 2012 11:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I can’t actually find the slightest mention of the case on any Department of Justice website.  Literally every reference to this story that I can find has the Sun Sentinel articles as the one and only source.  It is all a bit odd.  How sure are we about this being real?  It wouldn’t really make sense for a legitimate news source to go half a year making up stuff.

The articles from the Sun Sentinel, in chronological order:

October 18, 2011

October 21, 2011

November 3, 2001

March 14, 2012

Of course, even if it is real, it could be that nobody’s reporting on it because it’s not really big news.  It’s only a sensational story to a certain subset of people, involving people who are only celebrities to that same subset.  There were no gunfights or murders or anything, so it lacks appeal.

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Posted: 20 April 2012 03:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Also, isn’t James Randi a person who uses science to test the claims of those who make extraordinary claims? Not a cave dweller attitude, but the complete opposite.

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Posted: 20 April 2012 03:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Perzactly. Science isn’t about saying ‘No, that can’t be’, it’s about saying ‘Let’s see why that is’.

“So Thog. You say you have Fire NOT from Smoking Mountain OR Storm God’s Spears?”

“Uh, yeah. Just rub sticks together.”

“But sticks get rubbed lots, all the time. Not make Fire. Forests happy about that.”

“Got to rub sticks together right way. Very fast. Lots hard work.”

“Oooh… Experimental condition not mentioned before. You show me how, me give you half an elk?”

“Okay. Me like elk. Better when barbecued, so me make fire for you.”

 

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1: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. If it does what it says, you should have no problem with this.
2: What proof will you accept that you are wrong? You ask us to change our mind, but we cannot change yours?
3: It is not our responsability to disprove your claims, but rather your responsability to prove them.
4. Personal testamonials are not proof.

What part of ‘meow’ don’t you understand?

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Posted: 28 June 2012 01:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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anyone know what sentence was given to Randi’s lover?  Any links?

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Posted: 28 June 2012 07:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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This thread on the JREF forums brings it all up to date.

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Posted: 29 June 2012 07:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Madmouse - 28 June 2012 07:31 PM

This thread on the JREF forums brings it all up to date.

Thanks—this article in the Sun Sentinel tells that he was given 6 months house arrest (in James Randi’s house).

http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2012-05-29/news/fl-amazing-randi-jose-alvarez-20120529_1_identity-theft-house-arrest-plantation-artist

When my process server went to serve JR and his company for my lawsuit against him, Alvarez came to the door and volunteered that he was a director in JREF—and therefore he was served with this: 

http://www.etcorngods.com/complaint_randi.pdf

Thanks for the link—“Madmoouse”.

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