See my previous post on this subject here
A Fox Cable Network executive has been fired from her job in Los Angeles after contacting the girlfriend of missing Malaysia Airlines passenger Philip Wood, with an offer to raise money through an online website. Darlene Tipton, vice president of standards and practices at Fox, told Sarah Bajc that she and her husband Ken Tipton could potentially raise $15 million for Wood’s immediate family and asked if Bajc thought other family members would be interested in such a plan. She added that all the families would have to waive their rights to sue anyone associated with the accident.
Bajc, who has made regular appearances on a number of television networks since the flight went missing on March 8th, suspected a scam and sent the email to Fox, leading to Tipton’s dismissal on April 10.
Friday afternoon, Tipton expressed surprise at her termination because other employees used their company email for personal business. She vowed to continue the fundraising project.
“I have absolutely nothing to lose so I would like to pursue setting up the GoFundMe account for Philip Wood and possibly all 238 passengers,” Tipton wrote to an employee at the social media fundraising site, GoFundMe.com.
Tipton’s lawyer Stan Lieber says there’s nothing illegal or immoral about trying to raise funds for someone even without their authorization. “If they don’t want to take it, they don’t have to take it,” he said of the families.
CNN was criticized recently by the Miami Herald’s Leonard Pitts for pandering to ratings by continuing with non-stop coverage of the missing jetliner even in the absence of news. If the news producers want something exciting perhaps they should turn their attention to the Tiptons and the other audacious characters emerging from the MH 370 mystery.
Tipton has posted a rambling video of her husband Ken, taped from his hospital bed where he claims he may know the real story of the missing airliner because it came to him in a vision. Alternatively, he could have been having a medicine-induced hallucination. He’s not sure. Just the same, its full speed ahead, for the Tiptons and the GoFundMe project.
“They’re not trying to make money out of this, they’re trying to help the victims,” Attorney Lieber told me.
The Tiptons are not the only odd ducks I’ve come across since I started covering the action in Kuala Lumpur. A woman named Aida Santa Lucia from a company called Consultant and Advisor Services was in Malaysia a few weeks ago offering to help families select just the right legal representation. Lucia’s no lawyer, she will hand the cases she acquires over to a law firm that will then pay her a fee, according to a contract she showed to potential clients. (Just to make it more interesting, the New Jersey office address on the contract is a mail drop that 13 years ago was used as a convenience address by two 9/11 hijackers.)
John Mitchell of USA Consulting, also of New Jersey has been calling lawyers offering to sell retainers he has with more than two dozen MH 370 families. When I called Mr. Mitchell asking for details, he hung up on me. Don’t you want to know more? These most definitely are the people who should go on TV and keep us entertained.
I’ve already written about Manuel von Ribbeck and Monica Ribbeck Kelly, the brother/sister team of Chicago lawyers who claim to be the world’s largest aviation firm, though ABC News reported their Lakeshore Drive office is unoccupied and apparently without phones or computers. But how about a little airtime for two of their sidekicks?
Deon Botha, who sat on the dais at a press conference at the Kuala Lumpur Hilton in March hands out business cards that say he’s the Ribbeck’s Global Insurance Claims Manager. Sometimes he handles the sales pitches too, as he did when he called Sarah Bajc to offer free counseling and legal advice.
His LinkedIn profile says he’s in the hospitality business, running a guest house in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Also seated at the Ribbeck table with the nameplate reading Ribbeck Europe, was Erik Ahrends a resident of the Canary Islands. I could find nothing to indicate he’s a lawyer, but an online presence suggests he is quite an enthusiastic photographer.
Ah, yes, it is quite the assortment of folks attracted to the misery of Flight 370. Might it be in everyone’s best interest if the Tiptons go ahead and set up some of those gofundme sites for these folks instead? Perhaps enough money will be raised so the opportunists and the crackpots don’t have to chase the families of plane crash victims just to make a living.
See my latest post on this subject here
I am a journalist, a published author, speaker and broadcaster specializing in aviation and travel.