Everyone knows it: a small ball is hidden under one of three walnut shells. The operator shuffles the shells around quickly, and a player is made to guess which shell houses the ball. Wagers are usually made, and indeed a typical run may appear to draw in a great many bets around a makeshift table on a street corner.
During my decade in New York City, I had the dubious pleasure of observing this shell game up close. But I never thought I'd hear about a version using an actual human being.
But this “shell game” is not a game of chance at all. It's a confidence trick.
Just like a skilled shell game operator can remove and replace the pea at will, insuring that the player only wins if the operator chooses, this shell game is not a game at all.
It's a fraud, a swindle, a con.
According to testimony from a federal investigator during the first day of Steven Ingersoll's sentencing hearing on October 20, Ingersoll and his brother, Gayle, ran their version of the shell game and kept Kyle Andrezjewski (better known to his fellow Thunder Builders wage slaves at the Bay City Academy construction site as "Peanut") out of the reach, effectively helping him duck a federal subpoena that would have required Andrezjewski to testify during the Ingersoll Gang's federal fraud trial.
And it's not the first time Andrezjewski was difficult to locate, with his location kept secret by a member of the Ingersoll Gang.
In a “threats and intimidation investigative report” filed March 13 on behalf of Roy C. Bradley, Sr. in his federal asbestos conviction, Saginaw-based private investigator Alan Ogg related his conversation with “Peanut” Andrezjewski: “Andrezjewski stated he'd been subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury in the fall of 2013 and that he had been subpoenaed by Mr. Bradley's lawyer for the trial in the fall of 2014. He stated he picked up the subpoena at Bradley's house. He said he had gone to court but was never called to testify. He also stated that he had never been threatened or intimidated by anyone related to the court case.”
But according to a government witness who testified during Ingersoll's sentencing hearing, Andrezjewski was being kept on ice — guarded by Gayle Ingersoll, who was sharing a home with him.
Back on March 19, 2015, a stipulation was filed in federal court allowing now-convicted tax cheat Steven Ingersoll to contact a select group of individuals to “arrange his financial affairs and to prepare for sentencing”: Craig Johnston, Mark Noss, Margo Abbott, Patty Engler, Randy Kienbaum, Walter Szostak, Nick Oshelski, Richard Cummins...and Kyle Andrezjewski.
Although I wasn't surprised by most of the names (including Bay City Academy board member Johnston, business partner Noss, longtime Smart Schools Management employees/toadies Abbott and Engler, bank executives Kienbaum and Szostak, Lake Superior State University's former charter office head Oshelski and tax preparer Cummins), one did jump out for its seeming incongruity: Kyle Andrezjewski.
Steven Ingersoll's “Peanut payoff” came on March 26, 2015, when a quit claim deed was filed with the Bay County Register of Deeds transferring 111 N. Monroe in Bay City from Arts District LLC to Kyle Andrezjewski — for the consideration of one dollar!
Steven Ingersoll signed the quit claim deed as the grantor on behalf of the Arts District LLC.
But it doesn't end there.
On March 26, the same day the quit claim deed was filed, an IRS affidavit revealed that Andrezjewski went into the Bay County Treasurer’s office to request a "hardship exemption" from the $10,247.44 owed in back property taxes on 111 N. Monroe.
And guess who personally escorted Andrezjewski?
Why, his former roomie/jailer Gayle Ingersoll
Steven Ingersoll’s brother escorted Andrezjewski into the Bay County Treasurers office. While a federal affidavit later revealed Andrezjewski "inexplicably agreed to pay the county $500 per month for the back taxes owed on 111 N. Monroe", only one payment was made.
Unless tax payments are made, the home is scheduled to go into tax forfeiture foreclosure in late February 2016.
When seen from the perspective of the outcome alone, a wager in a shell game looks like an earnest gamble.
But when seen from the perspective of the operator, like the Ingersoll brothers, who were altering the game to suit their desired outcomes, the wager is merely a foil to be used against the player.
And Peanut got played, Steven Ingersoll got out from under a five-figure tax debt...and the taxpayers were screwed.
Sounds to Miss Fortune like just another day in the Naked City.