What Was Sam Israel Doing in Southwick?
It's really not surprising that runaway hedge fund trader Sam Israel decided that life on the lam is no lambchop. I mean, it's one thing to spend a little while cruising around campsites in an RV for a brief vacation, but I'm sure that RV-ing grows old and cold if you're used to living in a bit more of an upscale fashion.
Which, presumably, Sam was doing with the $450 M he and his hedge fund partners bilked out of investors.
But my first question is not about what Sam did or didn't do with the money.
It's how in God's name did he find himself in Southwick, Massachusetts?
Not that Southwick isn't a perfectly pleasant place.
Personally, I have spent many happy hours there visiting with my husband's family, but it's not exactly the sort of place you'd expect a fugitive from justice to end up.
Southwick is a small town, just outside of Westfield, Massachusetts. Which is just outside of Springfield, Massachusetts. While it's in and of Massachusetts, it juts into Connecticut, and is pretty well surrounded by it.
Over the last couple of decades, Southwick has gotten pretty built up as a bedroom community, but when I first started going there in the late 1970's, it still had a lot of active tobacco farms.
Now, most people don't associate Massachusetts with Tobacco Road, but the Connecticut Valley in the Western part of the state was home to many shade tobacco farms at one point. Driving out there, you can still see the tobacco barns here and there.
Southwick still has some working tobacco farms, and I've seen cheesecloth protecting the plants, watched the crop harvested, been in the barns when the tobacco is "fired" (dried out), and listened to plenty of stories about my husband's working on his uncle's tobacco farm during summers in college.
Uncle Bill's tobacco farm is long gone - by the time I got to know Jim, Bill and Carrie had long since converted their farm to a golf course. But some of Bill's relations still run farms out in Southwick, growing the tobacco that forms the outer leaves of expensive, yet still noxious, cigars.
Tobacco farming in the Connecticut Valley, by the way, is the setting for a quite melodramatic oldie-but-goodie swoony-dreamy Troy Donahue movie, Parrish, in which Troy's mother marries a tobacco farmer and Troy ends up romancing tobacco-chicks and fighting blue mold.
But Sam Israel wasn't in Southwick to golf or pick tobacco.
He was there to turn himself in, which he did by driving up to the Southwick Police Station on his motor scooter.
He had apparently tried to turn himself in at nearby Granville, which - by Southwick standards - is the real sticks. But they're part time police force was not on duty.
Thus, Sam took himself to Southwick, turned himself in there, and put Southwick on the map for the day.
Who knows how he found himself there, not all that many miles from where he lived, swindled, and faked his own suicide.
Bloggers speculated that he had left the country for some place that lacked an extradition agreement with the US, and where he could live in peace and luxury with the swindled $350 M which has yet to have been recovered.
But, no, Sam was camping in Granville, and maybe hanging out in Southwick watching tobacco grow on those last few working farms.
Not much of a life, compared to what he was used to.
No surprise that he turned himself in.