Former big-time con artist from Bloomfield Hills claims he's changed after prison time

Police aren't buying latest story from Frank Joseph

By Kevin Dietz - Reporter , Derick Hutchinson

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. - A man who was convicted for running a multimillion dollar Ponzi scheme is out of prison and said he's cleaned up his act.

Frank Joseph said he wants to help others, but police aren't buying it.

Bloomfield Hills is home to some of the wealthiest families in the country, and at least one big-time con man. Joseph saw wealthy families as potential victims, but now he said he wants to pay back society.

"It's been a roller coaster through my life with ups and downs," Joseph said. "(I've) done things. From being a police officer to ending up in federal prison."

Joseph is sharing his story, but it's one that's hard to believe for Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe.

"I'd stay away from Frank," McCabe said. "I wouldn't have anything to do with him."

Joseph has spent most of his life trying to convince people of something, and by his own account, much of it has been a scam.

"I have nothing to hide," Joseph said. "Nothing to conceal. (I'm) putting it all out there."

The side of Joseph people saw on the outside was ski trips, cigars, motorcycles and meetings with big shots across the globe. He promised profits and payoffs for investors, but it was all a facade, a multimillion dollar Ponzi scheme.

Joseph paid for his own lavish lifestyle with other peoples' investment money, and it led to victims losing fortunes. It eventually landed Joseph in prison.

"I was indicted for 39 counts of money laundering, wire fraud, mail fraud," Joseph said. "It was probably one of the lowest points of my life."

He spent five and a half years locked up, and in that time, he said he figured out why he did what he did. He said it was depression.

"Manic depression is something that's biological," Joseph said. "It's a chemical imbalance in the brain."

Joseph said it can be debilitating to the point of making somebody physically ill.

"It's claimed lives -- good, bad -- and there is a lot of people that are suffering with it from all walks of life," Joseph said. "From every color, every race."

Joseph said he would fake going to work and sleep all day. To make money, he would con people, He said many depressed people kill themselves, but others act out violently.

"Somebody comes to work with a gun or wants to do something where they want to end their life and to go out, and to be famous," Joseph said. "You know, saying, 'I'm depressed and I want other people to suffer like I suffer.'"

He said he can use his experience to help others.

"You know, getting into doing some life coaching," Joseph said. "Helping people with the struggles I've had for the last 45, 50 years."

Joseph said he wants to help people before they kill themselves or commit crimes.

"I'm not looking for pity," Joseph said. "I'm not looking for a pat on the back. I'm looking for somebody's hand that I can grab and help pull them up and say, you know, I've been there."

But is it a second chance at life or a new con? Before his latest stint in jail, Joseph put out a pamphlet called the Frank Joseph Story, which told people how he went from policeman to preacher to running a prostitution and gambling operation -- all vivid stories to promote him as a now-reformed motivational speaker.

"This is typical Frank Joseph," McCabe said. "I've known Frank for many, many years. Frank is a con artist. Maybe he changed his ways. I don't know. But the Frank Joseph I know, and we all know, is a con artist."

McCabe said he went to grade school with Joseph. He believes the story is a lie.

"Frank is making claims he was the youngest deputy ever hired in the Oakland County Sheriff's Office," McCabe said. "That's not true. Frank was hired as a para professional in 1976, which is the equivalent of a cadet. He had no police powers."

McCabe said Joseph never worked patrol, despite a photo that shows him writing a ticket in his promotional material. McCabe said Joseph worked in the county jail but was fired a short time later.

"While he was working in the jail he was charged criminally with an assault on an inmate," McCabe said.

Joseph tells stories of failure, faith and redemption in the Frank Joseph Story, but then he went out and pulled his biggest con of all time. Federal officials said he swindled friends and neighbors out of $2.7 million. Joseph said his prison time taught him never to steal again.

"I had a lot of friends that were caught up in my mess, and you sit back and look at it and say, 'Well, you know, I'm getting tired about me, me, me,'" Joseph said. "Now it's time to give back and say, 'What can you do to make things better?'"

He said he can only give back to the community by helping them understand and treat depression.

"To actually sit down and have a conversation with you, instead of just loading up the suitcase with your prescriptions and leaving, say, 'Hey, maybe I don't need this much. Maybe I don't need to be this catatonic,'" Joseph said.

Law enforcement officials warn the public to be weary of doing business with Joseph, but he said his days of conning people are over. Going forward, he said he plans to help people and prove himself one day at a time.

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