Bizarre Email Scam: Perpetrator Revealed as Stefano Grillo of Université de Perpignan

I was recently the victim of a bizarre email hoax targeting Buddhist websites, the details of which I will reveal in a moment. Fortunately, the only things I lost were some time and a fleeting emotional investment.

Via some cross-referencing I can reveal that the perpetrator of the hoax is Stefano Grillo, Research Associate Professor at Université de Perpignan, UPVD, France, under the email address rushtown2000@yahoo.co.uk.

Click here to scroll down for his full details.

The purposes of this post are:

  1. To provide an online record of the hoax so other potential victims can find it on Google via an email address search.
  2. To illustrate the relative ease with which it is now possible to find a vast array of online information about somebody, given a simple starting point such as an email address.
  3. Payback.

The Scam

On Saturday 27th May 2017 I received the following email through the PPM contact form:

From: Jan Toon Kyung-Min <rushtown2000@YAHOO.CO.UK>
Subject: PPM Contact: donation enquiry

Message Body:

Dear Ven. Illuminatus,

I would like to set up a regular weekly donation of 200$. I believe that offering this Dana to you is very good kamma because of your jhana meditation attainments. I would like to ask, as a condition, that  you’d be happy to consume  from the time of receiving first donation onwards, twice weekly on a minimum basis, Hongeo (Fermented Skate Fish) because this is my favourite food that I would like to be fed when reborn thanks to kamma vipaka. Please can you kindly check that such food is available in your neighboorhood and send me confirmation of your agreement so that I can set up the donation.

With much metta to you Illuminatus

Jan Toon Kyung-Min

My first thought was that the English is poor enough for him to be an old Korean man, and that the Buddhist lingo is all correct so if it is a scam then he’s gone to a lot of effort. Secondly, the donation is not large enough to be completely unbelievable (if someone is very wealthy then $200 a week is not a lot to pay for eternal happiness). And, it was enough to pique my greed.

The first red flag was the UK email address.

The second red flag was that he wished me to eat hongeo-hoe, a fish fermented in its own urine, which is widely regarded as the worst-smelling food in the world (Google it; it’s an interesting dish and there are some good YouTube videos of people attempting to eat it).

While primarily sceptical, the email appealed to my vanity enough that I was willing to play along:

From: Illuminatus

Hi Jan Toon Kyung-Min,

Thanks for your kind offer. There is a Korean store near to where I live and I will see if they stock hongeo when it is next open, which is Tuesday.

Kindest regards, Illuminatus

He replied:

From: Jan Toon

Bhante Illuminatus,

did you get the Hongeo? I have other monasteries and lay teachers interested in my offer; as a principle I am inclined to favour you since you habe jhana attainment, but I need an answer at your earliest convenience.

With metta and mudita

Jan Toon Kyung-Min

With his continuing commitment to Theravadan etiquette, and my vanity being stroked by his mention of my attainments, my investment increased and I wrote him the following reply:

From: Illuminatus

Hi Jan Toon Kyung-Min,

I did reply to you earlier today; I’m not sure why you didn’t receive my email.

Anyway, unfortunately I haven’t been able to source any hongeo here in the UK. The local store doesn’t have it and I cannot find it ANYWHERE online. Do you know of any online store where I can order it?

I am sorry, I have tried my best with it.

Kind regards, Edd a.k.a. Illuminatus

His reply:

From: Jan Toon

Dear Bhante,

There are two ways to proceed. You can get online Hongeo on this site:

http://english.11st.co.kr/product/SellerProductDetail.tmall?method=getSellerProductDetail&prdNo=1493675416

Please can you also check with Bhante Stephen Batchelor and with Martine, though they are in Bordeaux they might have found a good place for Hongeo in the UK as I am donating to them too.

Indeed you can come to a harmonious discussion and agreement with them also because I initially proposed to leave to them my wealth upon my death, but as I see that you practice the jhanas I am thinking more and more that it might be better kamma to leave some wealth to you Bhante. I have been blessed with material wealth but not so much spiritually. I confess that I hardly slept this week-end because of the uncertainty of  the best decision to make best possible kamma. So here’s Stephen’s email, to discuss harmoniously with him these questions.

[EMAIL ADDRESS REDACTED]

With metta and mudita

Jan Toon Kyung-Min

The implication that Jan Toon is dying and, as his final wish, just wants to be eating his favourite fish in the afterlife, pulled at my heartstrings, I must confess.

I googled the Batchelors and they do indeed run a meditation retreat in Bordeaux. I contacted them at the address supplied and received the following email from Martine:

From: Martine Batchelor

Dear Edd,

We are not taking it seriously but more as a joke.

We will not find any in Bordeaux; it is such an acquired taste.

We are not interested in the money either.  So it does not matter to us.

Good luck.

Warmly,
Martine

At this point the rational side of me is screaming: “IT’S BULLSHIT!” On the emotional side however, my eyes have lit up with greed as I am now the sole heir to the Korean fortune.

I replied:

From: Illuminatus

Hi Jan Toon,

I have people out trying to source hongeo right now – the manager of the Korean store, and my Chinese friend whose family has connections with the Korean food industry. I am also continuing my search for an online supplier.  I am confident I can find the hongeo.

However, this is becoming very time-consuming for me, now. I am willing to continue my search to fulfil your wishes, but as a show of good faith would it be possible for you to send me the first donation, please? I will use it to pay my website hosting bill so I can continue to teach the world the dhamma.

Kindest regards and much metta, Edd

He replied:

From: Jan Toon

Bhante Iluminatus,

happy to hear your search is progressing and happy to fufill your wishes for your fist donation! Please can you JUST kindly send me a copy of your exchange with Bhante Batchelor. Besides finding inspiration in your right speech; I’d like to have confirmation of his agreement with sharing the donation with you.

With metta

Jan Toon

I forwarded the exchange I had had with the Batchelors (in which I had told them a little about the blog, being a blend of entertainment and education, and that I was sceptical of Jan Toon’s emails) and received the following reply:

From: Jan Toon

Illuminatus Sir,

I have taken some time because I needed help with precise translation and undertanding of terms of your email document. You write ‘skepticism’: please correct me if I am wrong but I understand skpeticism is the opposite of faith and therefore doubt (vicikicchā) is the fifth hindrance in meditation as taught by the Lord Buddha. You also speak of ‘entertainment’: that goes against precepts of the Buddha as in the Vinaya He teaches entertainment should be shunned by serious practitioners of Dhamma. So therefore I lost faith in your attainement of jhānas and I hereby withdraw my offering of Dana.

Jan Toon Kyung-Min

Interestingly my first disappointment was not with the loss of the money but with the time I had caused others to waste in the search for the hongeo (though both searches terminated almost immediately as the dish is basically impossible to get outside of Korea, so thankfully not too much effort was wasted). I also noticed how my emotion here was similar to my earlier response of being more concerned with helping an old man die peacefully than I was with his money. So, I learned something about myself.

Ultimately, though, this was a complete waste of several people’s time (not least that of “Jan Toon”). I stewed on this for a day, thinking of how I could get back at him. 

When considering karma, and revenge, we must first realize that the target of our ire already suffers greatly as a result of his unenlightened existence. The fact that he invests so much time in aggravating strangers via email shows that he is dead inside and finds no joy in living, and must attempt to extract energy from others as his only source of sick pleasure. The universe is already working karmically within that system, as he no doubt draws hostility and disdain from the people in his life due to his disturbed personality.

However, we must also remember that we are not separate from the universe, and are in fact ourselves part of that karmic system, able to deal out karmic backlashes if we so desire as part of a completely causal response.

My first thought therefore turned immediately to black magick, and I imagined reaching to him across the æther to haunt him in visions at night. My experience with black magick however is twofold:

  1. There is a great deal of emotional and time investment in setting up the spell.
  2. There is always some “rub-off” on the magician himself caused by the linking of the two realities (this goes for white magick also; any mind- or heart-link is necessarily a two-way system).

In my experience of using black magick to harm others, despite a 100% success rate, spells have always been followed by a period of sickness or bad luck for myself also. This is just an intractable part of the way the universe works: what you do to others, you do to yourself.

So, the first rule of revenge might be: Do what you can in the physical world first, and only turn to magickal means as a last resort.

A second rule might be: Make the response measured and in proportion to the original crime.

Alternatively, you could just not seek revenge, and instead cleanse the channel with metta and therefore wipe the karmic slate clean — but that’s no fun.

So, the measured response I have chosen is simply to reveal the identity of the perpetrator and leave those details up alongside his email scam so there will be a permanent black mark next to his name on all future Google searches.

The Perpetrator

The perpetrator of the “Jan Toon” email scam is Stefano Grillo, Research Associate Professor at Université de Perpignan, UPVD, France. (Ah, academia…)

Name: Stefano Grillo
Occupation: Research Associate Professor at Université de Perpignan, UPVD, France
Address: 2 rue des charentes, Villeneuve-de-la-raho, France (66180)
Phone: +33468894381
Email address: rushtown2000@yahoo.co.uk
Skype: stefanoemiliomaria

Here’s a picture of his house:

Here’s his crappy paper in Naturehttps://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v443/n7111/full/443510a.html

Tracing Method

This exercise was quite revealing to me in how easy it is to acquire vast amounts of personal information about someone on the internet starting with just one or two data points. Here is how I did it.

Firstly, I searched the Skype directory for rushtown2000@yahoo.co.uk. This gave me a full name (Stefano Grillo) and a location (France).

I then downloaded the PPM access logs and filtered them down to accesses made to the contact form at the given date and time. This gave me his IP (78.205.170.105) which I then traced to his location (Villeneuve-de-la-raho).

Searches for “Stefano Grillo” and “Villeneuve-de-la-raho” gave plenty of entries which included his LinkedIn account and various pages with his address and telephone number (luckily Stefano Grillo is a fairly unique name in France, since “Stefano” is actually Italian). The picture of his house came from Google Street View.

From his LinkedIn account I got his employer’s name and then searches for “Stefano Grillo” and “Université de Perpignan” found the rest of the details. His working at the Université de Perpignan is consistent with both his address in nearby Villeneuve-de-la-raho, and the nature of the emails which indicate high intelligence and most likely a university education.

Interestingly, I found from my searches in the PPM access logs that I was not in fact the primary target — he had been searching my site for instances of the word “batchelor”, meaning the Batchelors were in fact the intended targets of the scam and I was being used as a pawn in that game. I have alerted Martine, theorizing that he may be a disgruntled former attendee of one of their workshops. Grillo found my site by searching for the term “nimitta”, meaning he has at least a passing interest in Buddhist meditation practice.

Final Thoughts

Many lessons have been learned here. The one that sticks out in my mind the most is that today’s technological world is truly global. One or two pieces of information about you can be tied back to much of your online activity, giving anyone with half a brain and access to Google a detailed picture of your life.

I would have found more had I had access to his complete LinkedIn and Facebook accounts, but I do not have accounts with those services (for this reason among many) so I could not click deeper into those profiles. With a little social engineering it should be possible to get someone to befriend you on one of those services, giving you access to a wealth of personal information about them. My advice is simply not to use those services at all and, if you do, only connect with people you interact with regularly in real life. Even then their accounts could be compromised, so be careful with what you share.

Ultimately however, I am learning that anonymity is now virtually impossible.

This has been an interesting exchange with a deranged individual. Stefano Grillo, thanks for playing.

Did you like this article? Subscribe to my newsletter

* indicates required
Third-party mailings opt-in

6 Responses

  1. Rigz says:

    Probably the most bizarre post in the history of PPM. Grillo must be shitting himself! Also what kind of nutter chooses piss-soaked herrings as a centre piece for an inheritance scam? Absolute lunatic.

  2. Vick says:

    Maybe the fish is just that good, all he wants is to share the joy of eating it with others.

  3. Aldous says:

    Hell hath no fury like an Illuminatus pranked.
    Who sits at home thinking “Christ, I’m angry. The world man…and Budhist meditation has let me down bad. How can I show them? If only I could convince a respected meditation teacher, one who’s experimented with his own consciousness more then any other and been gracious enough to share his findings for free online, to eat a fish that tastes like a tramps pissed on it then stored it for six monthd in his y-fronts. Yeah, that would do it. To the internet….”
    Bravo for outfoxing, naming and shaming this arsehole.
    And potentially saving some other innocent meditation teacher from falling for it.
    Unless it was Ingram. He loves a dark night and I can think of none darker then a night spent on one’s knees in front of a latrine throwing up the piss fish to be enjoyed again. Note that.

  4. Buddha says:

    I just take the precept to be loving and kind to myself and all beings and then you show me this asshole. LOL. The universe be quick to test

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *