Ken Dachman was morbidly obese as a child. He was teased and tormented because of it. I think we can safely say, that much is true. In his late teens, Dachman lost an enormous amount of weight--also true. He wrote a book, and developed a weight loss program for children based on his own experience--all true.
Dachman received a lot of press coverage at the time, and my impression was that he built quite a successful business. I heard about him because a long ago close friend of mine was a barber who cut Ken Dachman's hair back in the early 1980s. She knew him before and after his physical transformation. She liked him and was impressed with his story.
Google News archives from 1980 include many links to articles about Dachman's weight loss and his program for kids.
In the years since, I haven't heard Dachman's name, nor have I thought about him, but he resurfaced as a front page, breaking story in the Chicago Tribune just a few minutes ago.
Dachman has been charged with defrauding investors of $4 million dollars for a sleep clinic that never was. The clinic was supposed to treat sleep apnea. Instead, prosecutors allege that Dachman spent the money on a Lake Forest mansion, exotic vacations, vehicles and tattoos.
Investigators say that Dachman was actually broke when he put his scheme in motion. He'd even filed for bankruptcy protection several times over the years.
Dachman also passed himself off as a psychologist with a PhD from Northwestern. I see that he was even quoted in the Miami Herald as a Chicago area child psychologist, commenting on the Elian Gonzalez case back in 2000 (behind pay wall). That same year, Dachman was sued by the state of Illinois for placing ads in local papers, falsely claiming that he could secure financing for people, regardless of credit history.
What is amazing to me is how a smooth talker with no money, and a history of repeated bankruptcies and phony credential claims, could secure investments to the tune of $4 million dollars. Honest people who bring substantial amounts of their own money to the table, with legitimate credentials, well-developed plans--very workable plans--can have trouble finding even a dime of investor support.
How much of what passes for substance in this world is really a matter of guile and persuasiveness unmoored from reality?
This story reminded me of a "psychologist" interviewed very briefly today on one of the morning news shows. The subject of the interview is unimportant. What impressed me was that his brief comment was utter bullshit.
Here's what I imagine: some little wank of a 20-something producer had to come up with a two-minute segment. Said producer had a dumb idea and sought out a psychologist (if that's what he really is) to say something that gave credence to the baseless fluff cooked up by the producer. The producer went through the phone book, calling psychologists until one would agree to offer comment supporting the producer's unsubstantiated story premise.
I think this happens all the time. I've mentioned before that I've gotten many calls to appear on television for a news story or asked to be a guest psychologist on a talk show. All that seemed relevant to the producers in deciding my eligibility was that my name was in the phone book and that I would go along with whatever bullshit they were purveying to boost their ratings.
Most psychologists I know turn these gigs down because they require professional compromise. You're there to serve the producer's fantasy rather than honestly representing the psychologist's perspective.
I don't check anymore, but I used to look up the credentials of these media psychologists when I'd hear something idiotic coming out of their mouths. Half the time, the person portrayed as a psychologist wasn't a psychologist. I don't bother to check anymore.
So back to Mr. Dachman, it doesn't surprise me that he could pass himself off as a psychologist in the media. But it does surprise me that he could convince investors to put up $4 million. A little bit of checking of easily accessible records would quickly reveal his lack of credentials, his financial problems and his history of fraud. Do people just write huge checks without taking ten minutes to Google the recipient? It seems that they do.