The elections in the US are like nothing ever seen before. The Republican Party is being ripped to shreds by Donald Trump, whose insurgency has largely made the establishment of that party irrelevant. The infighting has reached unprecedented proportions, and voters now face a choice between supporting the real estate tycoon or vote for Hillary Clinton, who is ahead to become the Democrats' nominee.
But the Democratic Party faces the same upheaval. Bernie Sanders has been running a similar insurgency and, as recent events in Nevada showed, the party is divided to an extend unseen since 1968. Voters face an equally tough choice as their Republican counterparts; between voting for Clinton or supporting Trump, who shares some ideas with Sanders - or not voting at all. Accusations of fraud and backstabbing fly back and forth.
A miniature of that process appears to be playing out in Panama, in full-on Panama Papers style, within the local chapter of Democrats Abroad. We understood that its chairman, one Sean Douglas Hammerle, who supports Hillary Clinton, set out to cleanse the organization of Sanders supporters, most notably Eric Jackson, whom we know as the editor of the Panama News. However, it now seems that it's Hammerle who will be making his exit. Here's why.
Sean Hammerle's wicked world of who is who
Hammerle has only been in Panama for three years. He works, apparently, at the OnQ callcenter in Santiago de Veraguas as the Director of Training and Resources.
But Mr. Hammerle claims all kind of great things and accomplishments about himself:
I am 44-years-old and live in Santiago de Veraguas, Panamá. My partner and I moved to Panama from Houston, Texas in November 2013 to start an outsourced medical billing call center for which I currently serve as the Director of Training and Resources. I have spent my career in corporate coaching, charitable fundraising and politics. I also maintain PLAID Consulting LLC in the U.S. for which I serve as Founder/President. The firm works internationally with small and mid-sized for-profit and non-governmental organizations focusing on their essential leadership and advancement needs. I am a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE), and have worked globally with businesses and philanthropic organizations of all sizes and missions throughout my career.
On the Plaid Consulting website, Hammerle is equally boastful about what a great company he's running:
PLAID Consulting, LLC is an international firm based in Houston, Texas, United States and Santiago, Veraguas, Panama focused on "Professional Leadership and Institutional Development." Founded originally as the Philanthropic Leadership Council in 2002, the firm began as a small project consulting organization. As client demand grew, the firm grew as well, and in 2011 changed its name to PLAID Consulting, LLC focusing on the needs of small and mid-sized non-governmental organizations as well as small and mid-sized for-profit business leaders both nationally and internationally. The firm offers a diverse staff with more than 40 years' combined experience in leadership development, executive recruitment and non-profit fundraising with over $150 million raised globally for organizations of all sizes and missions; ranging from the arts to social services to education.
And this is where it gets interesting. Browsing the website of PLAID Consulting, the staff page lists three people: Jason Resch, Marie Relado, and Mark Compton. All three have distinguished credentials. All three have different expertise to offer Hammerle's clients. In Hammerle's prose:
Each of our staff has diverse experience ranging from small/mid-size non-profits to large corporations. We understand the efforts of the generalist development officer (from fundraising to marketing to accounting) or the pressures of a chief executive officer. We recognize the importance of team work and delegation. We bring a unique perspective to the table with our experience as both staff members and board members. PLAID staff brings a well-rounded viewpoint to every task, no matter the scope of the project or size of the organization.
Right. Problem is, all three of his "staff members" are definitely and one hundred percent fake. They don't exist.
A little bit of research quickly revealed the truth: "Jason Resch" is in reality called Joe Mariano and he works for Comstock Mortgage as a loan consultant.
"Marie Relado" is in reality Rebecca Almanza and she works for Sagent Marketing.
"Mark Compton" is in real life Eric Suit, who also works for Comstock Mortgage.
In other words, what Sean Hammerle did was to poach photos of unsuspecting people off the web and make up fake identities with the faces as to make it appear that PLAID Consulting is a real firm where real people work, doing real business.
That's called "fraud," and "identity theft."
When confronted, Hammerle's response was to take the entire PLAID Consulting website offline. Plop!
Is ANYTHING real about Sean Hammerle?
The PLAID website lists a number of clients. Although we will have to check, we a sort of fail to see how these clients would have been served by Hammerle's imaginary staff. For all his claims about being a successful fundraiser, the only thing we have been able to find was Hammerle's profile on a crowdfunding platform called CrowdRise, where he ran a campaign for something called "We race 4 life."
Total amount raised: $0.
Is the company itself even real? We did find it listed on the Comptroller website of the State of Texas, with the mention "franchise tax involuntary ended" which, it seems, voids its right to do business in Texas.
For added confusion, there is a Texas company that carries the exact same name, which is listed here.
Oh, Hammerle also claims successes as an opera singer and triathlon athlete. Yes, you guessed it.
Haven't we seen this before?
Avid readers of this website will probably have deja-vu experiences reading this story. Fake staff members? Rogue political operatives? Why does that sound familiar?
Don't worry: You're right. Years ago we were able to report on the capers of one Monte Friesner, a Canadian fraud artist and money launderer then based in Panama, who had dead people listed as staff members on one of his "financial" corporations. And one of his biggest fans was the vice-president of Republicans Abroad in Panama, Hunter Schultz, who in turn was selling memberships for an imaginary helicopter ambulance service.
It is sometimes said that Republicans and Democrats are two sides of the same coin. A one-balboa coin.