How Criminals like Emmanuel Weyi use Wikipedia to find more victims

Most people assume Wikipedia is a good source of information. They assume that crowdsourcing information works. In this essay, I won’t present an overall analysis of Wikipedia, I’ll do a deep dive to show how one con man, a criminal named Emmanuel Weyi, uses Wikipedia to keep up his image as an “honorable” businessman. And I will name the Wikipedia editor who is helping him.

In 2021, Emmanuel Weyi conned me out of tens of thousands of dollars using signed contracts promising to repay loans I made to him. I have written about that in a previous blog post. In March 2022, I received a judgment in my favor from the District court of Denver:

First page of a court judgment I received. Next step is to sue him for failure to repay what he owes me.

Background

Emmanuel Weyi is a former “businessman” in Colorado who is now hiding out in Kampala, Uganda. My guess is that if he sets foot in US territory, the FBI will pick him up, so he stays in Kampala. He pretends to be a billionaire and tries to con people into giving him money on the pretense that much more will be coming back to them later. So far, he has successfully scammed at least a dozen people, and probably quite a few more. He is very adept at lying and playing the long con — telling people what they want to hear — and then asking for just a “token” amount up front. It is likely that he has conned people for more than $500,000 over the last 15 years or so.

I have written a blog post on his criminal activities. I am in touch with many of his former and current victims. I have prevented several people from being scammed, and I want to put Weyi out of business conning people. I’d like to help law enforcement bring criminal charges against him.

When you search Google for “Emmanuel Weyi,” this is what you see:

Note that my blog post is in the 4th position. Wikipedia is #1. Here is how the Wikipedia page looks:

In 2021, I sued his son Jonathan for damages, because Jonathan is in Denver, and he is the person I sent money to. Jonathan has been working with his father for years. He is part of the scam. After I received the judgment against him, I tried to edit Emmanuel’s Wikipedia page to warn others, and that’s where I met with fierce resistance. Here’s how that works.

Send out press releases

In 2015, Emmanuel came up with a new scam: pretend to run for president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to remove Felix Tshisekedi from power. Weyi set up a nonprofit in Colorado to accept money from “donors” who wanted to help him become President. He built a website. He sent out press releases. He started arranging parties.

The press releases and the events worked. Here is one, where everyone is fooled:

Journalists picked up the story of “The Denver Businessman Running for President of Congo.” It was good for page 4. The LA Times ran a story.

He asked me for money for his campaign. I thought he was foolishly overconfident, but I sent him $50. I don’t know how much he raised, but I believe he took the money and spent it on himself. I expect he violated federal laws that govern nonprofits, but I don’t have direct evidence.

The Wikipedia Defender

Wikipedia is not a democracy. Wikipedia is run by gatekeepers. Some are paid; most are volunteers. In 2017, the Weyi page was nominated for deletion but it didn’t happen because of “no consensus.”

In 2021, after I learned Weyi was a criminal, I edited his Wikipedia page to explain that he had taken money from more than a dozen people. I linked to my blog post.

Within a few minutes, I had a message on Wikipedia from Gaelan Steele (gbs@canishe.com, @gaelansteele), a computer-science major who claims to be “passionate about social justice and equality.” Gaelan is nice. He gave me his email address and emailed me:

As you know, Wikipedia gets a ton of readers. That means we have to be careful about the accusations we levy, especially against living people: both for legal reasons — we don’t want to get accused of libel — and because it’s the right thing to do. That means we don’t publish accusations like this without a reliable source.

“Reliable source” here ideally means something like a news article, as journalists are very experienced at evaluating and fact-checking things like this. The court documents might do it, but I wouldn’t count on it, especially with summary judgement — all that really proves, as I understand it, is that he didn’t show up.

Talking to the press might be an option, if you haven’t already tried that. If they took up your story, that’d both get some attention in and of itself, and would get you something you could cite from the Wikipedia article.

I hope some of this advice is helpful.

Yours,
Gaelan

Let’s look at the big picture here: Wikipedia editors promote content that is written by professional journalists, because “journalists are very experienced at evaluating and fact-checking things like this.” Is that true?

Second, Wikipedia doesn’t promote blog posts. That’s understandable. Anyone can write anything on a blog post.

So all you need to do to influence a Wikipedia page is send out a press release and get a journalist to write up a story about you.

Wait. Is that really credible?

If you want to know the answer to that, read the fascinating book Truth: A Brief History of Total Bullsh*t and by Tom Philips, or True Enough, by Farhad Manjoo.

On the flip side, Wikipedia can’t let anyone publish just anything. You can write a blog post claiming your boss is a rapist or your senator is committing fraud, but should the Wikipedia editors link to it? It depends on the evidence in each particular case, and good evidence is hard to come by. Sometimes blogs have better evidence than peer-reviewed scientific papers do. Sometimes, investigative journalists get it right first. Most of everything is noise, while signal is rare. It’s not easy.

The Wikipedia bar of truth seems to be set at “magazine articles,” whatever that means. I’m sure the bar is higher for more important people. Some Wikipedia pages have become war zones, with different factions trying to change them all the time.

Does this system work? Imagine how many people are protected in this way? How many con artists and other criminals does Wikipedia help by only believing “journalists”?

In this case, I emailed Gaelan the court judgment, and he refused to reply to me. I’m sure Gaelan means well, but he doesn’t have time to devote to this page, and as a result, he is helping Weyi scam more people.

We’re talking about hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of dollars over the last 20+ years. If I could get an editor to help me write a magazine article, then Gaelan would accept it and I could prevent others from losing money.

I was last contacted by a potential victim in May of this year. Weyi was pretending to offer his company $200 million for a real-estate development, but they found my blog post and contacted me. They said there had been a delay. I told them he has nothing. He’s going to ask for money, and he’s going to start talking with anyone you introduce him to. They were a bit disappointed to hear this, saying “We have to be sure. It’s a lot of money.” I said no, it isn’t. It is zero money. He will ask you for money, and he will ask your friends for money. Be careful.”

My goal is to help more people avoid becoming his next victim. My goal is to send him to prison. If you have access to a web page, please add the following link to your website:

Emmanuel Weyi is a con man operating out of Uganda. He preys on innocent victims. Please spread the word.

That points to emmanuelweyi.site, which I try to keep up to date. Your links help my pages rise in the Google ranking system. If you have any way to edit the Wikipedia page, that would help.

Thank you,

David Siegel

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