Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Curious Case of Lamberto Fedeli

Hi there, worthy handful of readers! This posting marks a change in the content of "Art By-Products." I will now be posting non-fiction and essay writing, in medium-sized pieces, to the By-Product. This won't happen every day, I expect to publish writing only once or twice a month. And each text will still have an illustration to go with it. If you want fiction (or perhaps alternate world is a better description) you are invited to visit my "Noantri New Earth" blog once it has been re-started. (I'll tell you when.) I've missed slinging words, and this way saves paper. Of course if the text doesn't interest you or is too long, it won't bother me if you just look at the picture. 

Illustration: "Lamberto on a Rampage" is brown markers on sketchbook page, 4" x 4", January 5, 2015.

The first "Word By-Product" is part one of a series on a notorious Italian-Australian internet crank, to whose mailing list I was somehow subscribed.


Long, long ago, in 1960, a jeweller and goldsmith from Roma, Italia, emigrated to Australia. His name was Lamberto Fedeli, and he settled in Sydney. There he stayed, unknown to most of the world, until he was thrown, or threw himself into, a world of obsession and rage magnified by the Internet, a voice howling in the cyber-wilderness.

Ever since it went public in the 1980s and early 1990s, the Internet has been the home of cranks, madmen, paranoids, ideologues, crackpots, and assorted crazies. With the touch of the “send” key, someone can multiply their madness not only to friends and family but to multitudes of people in places that the sender cannot even imagine. Some older net users may recall the rabid posts of “Serdar Argic,” who launched his wild tirades blaming the Armenians for the genocide of the Turks (the exact opposite of real history) to any newsgroup or forum that dealt with Near Eastern politics and culture. “Serdar Argic” turned out to be a “bot”, or a piece of software designed to spray messages over the internet when it encounters the right keywords. 

Lamberto Fedeli is not a bot. He is a real person whose life has gone wrong for years. He is still fighting a legal case which has gone on, by his own admission, for more than twenty-five years, long after the statute of limitations has run out on it. Just the level of his endurance, let alone the intensity of his commitment, boggles the mind. But what is most astonishing is that this case may not exist.

In mid-2011, I started receiving e-mails from Fedeli about this case and the injustices he had endured. The e-mails were copied to a collection of addresses of politicians, lawyers, media people, police, and other authority figures in Australia. I somehow had been placed on this list even though I am on the other side of the world and have no connection with Fedeli or his crusade, nor any ability to help him win his war. The texts he sent were mostly abusive and verbally violent, filled with foul language. His command of the English language was poor; as an Italian speaker in an English-language country he had not been able to learn the official language.

I could have simply blocked his address and I would be rid of him and his ranting posts. I wrote to Fedeli privately, as he makes his correct address public, and asked to be removed from his mailing list. He replied that he could not do that, because he had not put my address on it. He said that he had urged his readers (or friends and family, etc.) to seek out as many people as possible and add them to Lamberto’s list, so that his outrage would have a larger audience. This is the only time I have had direct online contact with Fedeli himself.

 At one point I wrote to one of the people on his list, asking just who this person was. The Australian person (I’m naming no names anytime here) told me to just block his address and ignore him. But I had gotten curious. This was a case of obsessive madness and I wanted to know more about it. Fortunately (or not), Fedeli posts a synopsis of the Case every so often so we won’t forget the facts.

The case

The details of this case are very difficult to figure out, given Fedeli’s lack of English and his own obsessive commitment to the cause. He is the only source I have for the story, after all; the Australians have all blocked him years ago and moved on. If I lived in Australia I might give visiting him a try, and speak to him in Italian, a language I know. At this point I don’t think even corresponding with him online is a good idea, given his ability to harass and cause mayhem on the net.

But let’s look at the case from a summary made by Fedeli himself and published in one of his e-mails to his list. I’m not going to quote the whole text, but make as much sense out of it as I can, and as he reported it.

Lamberto Fedeli worked as a jeweler in Sydney, Australia. In 1980, he writes, he left a large amount of jewelry with some fellow jewelers, a pair of brothers, on approval. “Approval” means that he places some merchandise with others, who will either sell it, buy it themselves, or return it to the original owner. A year went by, and the brothers had neither sold nor bought it. They did nothing for a year, neither refusing it nor returning it. So Fedeli sued to get his jewelry back from these colleagues. He hired three lawyers (or solicitors, as they’re referred to in Australia) to prosecute and get his money or merchandise back.

This date of 1980 is peculiar as Fedeli states in his report of the case. Because as he states it, the lawsuit to retrieve the jewelry or its monetary worth took place in November 1988 - eight years later. Do Australian court cases about business take eight years to come to trial? Perhaps. But Fedeli says the court case, with his three lawyers to serve him, took place in November of 1988.

The settlement, when it came, relied on the price of gold at that moment rather than the value of the actual jewelry. Fedeli testified in court himself about the wrong that had been done and reported that the price of gold had risen to $250 an ounce, since the original deal was proposed (in 1980?). (In fact, an internet search shows that the price of gold in 1980 was US$ 594.90 per ounce and its price in 1988 was US$ 410.15. But Lamberto’s prices are in Australian dollars, so that would change the price per ounce for an Australian case.)

After Fedeli’s testimony, the court recessed, leaving Fedeli bewildered and angry. When the lawyers returned, they offered him an out-of-court settlement for $8000. In some of Fedeli’s outbursts, this is cited as $9000. (Australian dollars.) The judge wanted it settled out of court because he (the judge) could not understand what Lamberto was trying to say, given that Fedeli didn’t know English very well at all.

Fedeli settled with his lawyers for 8 (or 9) thousand AUDollars. The lawyers garnished a fee from this settlement, leaving Lamberto with about $7900. The case seemed to end here, and according to his summary, Fedeli waited ten years before a major turn of fortune (at least, for him) occurred.



Mike said...

Haha, what a bizarre story. I'm looking forward to part 2. :)

Rebekkah Hilgraves said...

Curious indeed! I look forward to the next installment.