James McCormick’s bomb detectors can’t detect anything, yet he managed to dupe police forces and governments worldwide into buying them. The 57-year-old British man raked in more than $75 million from the devices — modified golf-ball finders worth less than $20 that he sold for more than $40,000 each to customers including the Iraqi government, the United Nations, Saudi Arabia, Niger and the Hong Kong prison service, the Telegraph reported.
The fake devices failed to detect explosives that would go on to kill or maim countless people in Iraq, according to the Daily Mail, which reports that a vehicle carrying rockets and missiles managed to slip through a remarkable 23 checkpoints where McCormick’s gadgets were used. The BBC reported that the Iraqi government spent about $40 million on 6,000 devices between 2008 and 2010 and some of them are still in use today. To win the massive contract, McCormick allegedly bribed General Jihad al-Jabiri, head of the Baghdad bomb squad, and two other senior officials, who are serving jail terms for corruption, noted the BBC.
McCormick was convicted on three counts of fraud on Tuesday after an anonymous whistleblower sent two letters to the British government urging officials to look into the scam, reported the Guardian.
According to the Guardian,McCormick marketed the devices at a government-backed trade fair, using (without authorization) logos of the International Association of Bomb Technicians and the Essex Chamber of Commerce. He claimed that his devices could detect minuscule traces of explosives, drugs and ivory, and spot them up to 30 meters underwater or 10 meters underground and through walls, noted the Telegraph. In fact, the gadgets were nothing more than “hand-held aerials fixed to plastic hinges,” writes the Daily Mail.
McCormick, a former trainee cop and a salesman who earned about $45,000 a year, used his crime profits to fund a lavish lifestyle. According to the Mirror, he bought a house from Hollywood star Nicholas Cage, spent more than a $900,000 on a yacht and invested in dressage horses — the sport of failed U.S. presidential candidates — to the tune of $300,000.
He will be sentenced on May 2, the BBC reported.