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Vol. 11 - Issue 1
January 3, 2022


Encore: Randy Spencer’s Open Mic

Elvis Is Alive Leads To E-Mail SpoofingAnd Crime Coverage





This “Open Mic” column originally appeared in the April 30, 2019 issue of Coverage Opinions.
Happy 87th birthday Elvis (January 8, 2022) 


Richard Billings, of Minot, North Dakota, was considered, by those who considered such things, the nation’s leading expert on proof that Elvis Presley was still alive.  Billings had spent decades unearthing evidence that he believed established that the King faked his own death on August 16, 1977.  Billings had a website that contained photos, voice recordings (with voice analysis experts), DNA evidence, witnesses accounts to Elvis sightings and other information that he believed established that Elvis did not leave this earth in 1997.  Billings also had confidential information, from those very close to Elvis, that the star was burned out, felt trapped by his celebrity and simply wanted a simpler life.  The only solution was to lead the world to believe that he had forever left the building.

On January 17, 2018, Billings received an email from earonp@gmail.com that read as follows:

Dear Richard,

I have long been impressed by your work establishing that Elvis Presley did not die at Graceland on August 16, 1977.  I can tell you, with absolute certainly, that you are correct.  I am Elvis Presley.  The reasons why I did what I did are complex, but the theory is generally right – my celebrity had taken over my life.  I could not do even the simplest things without a mob scene and security.  I was a prisoner in Graceland.   
After my “death” I changed my appearance as best I could and stayed hidden at various safe houses around the country that Vernon had arranged.  I needed some time to pass for “Elvis” to fade into the background of the public’s mind.  Vernon also arranged for my identity to be changed and he secretly provided for the lifetime of money that I would need.  Slowly I emerged into the world as a real person.  I finally had the freedom to live as I wanted.  I got to play racket ball (I missed my private court in Graceland J), joined a bowling league and took assorted jobs.  I just wanted to have conversations with people that were not about “Elvis.”  I wanted friends who I knew had sincere intentions and not simply to be in the entourage.    

I eventually settled in Las Vegas where I went to work as an Elvis impersonator.  I served as a witness to weddings, did appearances at conventions and performed in shows at some of the casinos.  It was a long way from my performances at The Hilton.  But this is the life I wanted.  I usually got high marks as an “Elvis.”  Some folks provided me with advice on things I could do to improve.  It was always good fun.   

Richard, I need your help.  The money that Vernon arranged is close to running out.  I am now 84 and too old to work.  I need $25,000 to sustain myself.  My needs are very simple.  That amount of money would go very far.  I know that this is a lot of money.  All I can do in return is promise you that I will spend the rest of my days with your kindness in my heart.  If you can do this please wire the money to the following account: [redacted].  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

God bless you, 

Richard Billings read the e-mail dozens of times.  While he understood that it could be a fraud, he could not get out of his mind that the sender’s email address was earonp@gmail.com.  Elvis considered his middle name to be Aron, spelled with one “a” only.  This, Elvis did, as a tribute to his twin brother, Jesse Garon, who died stillborn.  Despite this, the public spelled Aaron the Biblical way.  Even Elvis’s tombstone is spelled Aaron.

Richard could not believe that a scammer would know to spell Aron with a single “a.”  Based on this, he wired $25,000 to Elvis.  Richard eventually came to believe that he had been scammed.

Richard, seeking to recover the money lost, made a claim for coverage under his Crime policy with Bismark Mutual Insurance Company.  The policy provided coverage as follows: “The Company will pay the Insured for the Insured’s direct loss of, or direct loss from damage to, Money, Securities and Other Property directly caused by Computer Fraud.”  The policy defined “Computer Fraud” to mean: “The use of any computer to fraudulently cause a transfer of Money, Securities or Other Property from inside the Premises or Financial Institution Premises: 1. to a person (other than a Messenger) outside the Premises or Financial Institution Premises; or 2. to a place outside the Premises or Financial Institution Premises.”

Bismark Mutual disclaimed coverage, arguing that Billings could not prove that his loss had been caused by a fraudulent transfer of money.  Bismark maintained that, because Billings had spent decades, and substantial money, in asserting that Elvis Presley was alive, he could not have believed that he had been fraudulently induced into sending money to the sender identified as “earonp.”        

Richard filed suit against Bismark Mutual Insurance Company.  In a recent decision in Billings v. Bismark Mutual Insurance Company, No. 18-2365 (Ward Cty. N.D. Apr. 9, 2017), the court found in favor of the insurer.  The court held as follows:

“The content of plaintiff’s website demonstrates an individual as confident that Elvis Presley is alive as that the sun rises in the east.  It was on this basis that plaintiff wired $25,000 to “earonp.”  In return, Plaintiff was to receive knowledge that, for the rest of Elvis’s days, the legendary singer would have plaintiff’s kindness in his heart.  Simply put, plaintiff, having spent so long believing that Elvis is alive, cannot prove that he was fraudulently induced to wire the money.  Nothing from this transaction changes the mountain of evidence that plaintiff purports proves that Elvis is alive.  Therefore, plaintiff cannot now change course, for the benefit of his claim, and maintain that the sender of the e-mail was not Elvis Aron Presley.”  Billings at 4. 


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