If the average person was asked to find the Dominion of Melchizedek on a map, chances are that they would have no clue where it was located. No, they didn’t fall asleep in class during geography class that day; the reason no one could find it is because the Dominion of Melchizedek doesn’t exist, at least not officially.

The Taongi Atoll, claimed capital of the Dominion of Melchizedek.

According to the official website for the Dominion of Melchizedek (DoM), the country is “An ecclesiastical and constitutional sovereignty.” which inhabits the Taongi Atoll— never mind that the island is completely uninhabited and considered territory of the Republic of Marshall Islands. Territories also claimed to be an interest of the Dominion of Melchizedek include Antarctica, Solkople (an island near Fiji), Karitane (located within the city of Dunedin, New Zealand) , and Clipperton (an island off the coast of Mexico plagued by torrential rainfall and a particularly foul odor).

The locations of these places aren’t necessarily important, what is important is most of these places are unidentifiable to the average person. Even if someone happened to possess a geography degree and could identify these areas, very few people have actually been to any of them. This is where the con comes in. Under the umbrella of the Dominion of Melchizedek scammers are free to pull off a number of investment scams, take out fraudulent loans, pass checks endorsed by fictional banks, sell fraudulent passports, degrees, medical licenses, the list goes on.

The Founding Fathers

Founded by father and son criminals David and Mark (AKA Branch Vinedresser, AKA David Korem, AKA Tzemach Ben David Netzer Korem) Pedley, Melchizedek was conceived after the pair pulled off a scam involving real estate, along with another involving Mexican currency. It’s claimed that David, the elder of the pair, died while serving time in a Mexican prison, but not before penning the Malchizedek bible. No evidence exists that David’s body was extradited to the US as it was claimed and it is believed that he is still alive, living under an assumed identity. Mark Pedley, son of David, served his time in a Washington prison and was released in 1990.

Upon his parole, Mark took the liberty of changing his name to Branch Vinedresser (believed to be a vague biblical reference) and took control of a company named Currentsea – originally founded by an eccentric environmentalist by the name of Jerome Schneider and used by the Pedleys to pull off their currency scam. Through Currentsea, Mark began a flurry of banking and financial-related frauds, conjuring up a convincing story to pitch to potential investors in the interest of the financial solvency of his newly formed cyber-nation. Allowing anyone that donated more than $2000 to the country to obtain ambassadorship, scammers were able to use fictional banks to collateralize real loans in other countries worldwide.

The President of Nowhere

Pearlasia Gamboa (AKA Elvira Gamboa, AKA Bea C. Catiguman) and president of Malchizedek has been no stranger to the SEC, herself. The native Filipino first came under their watchful eye after attempting to secure a $20,000 car loan using the assumed entity Bankasia AG.A., along with an address listed within the Dominion of Melchizedek. Raising suspicions about the questionable financial institution she was representing, she was alerted that such practices were illegal. As a result, Gamboa was barred from representing herself as a bank official within the state of California. Pearlasia claims that the entire ordeal was a complete misunderstanding and declared “spiritual warfare” on the attorney general of California in retaliation. Pearlasia’s magic must have worked, because she managed to evade authorities for roughly twelve years.

In 2007 the SEC began investigating a company run by Gamboa named ZNext Mining Corporation. The allegations against her detail a four year scam, known to the financial community as a “pump-and-dump”. Much like the scam pulled off by Jordan Belfort, made famous in Martin Scorsese’s film “The Wolf of Wall Street”, Gamboa purchased a large number of stock shares in order to inflate the market price with the intention of later unloading the bogus securities, resulting in a substantial financial loss for legitimate shareholders. Although she claims that she had no knowledge of the stock market fraud, she was ordered in a civil court to pay a $1.8million judgment. Gamboa’s husband, Mark Pedley, was also ordered to serve two years in prison for his involvement in scam.

International Swindlers, Schemers, and Con-Artists

The Pedleys and Gamboa weren’t the only ones using Melchizedek as a tool for their elaborate schemes. Three men were arrested in the Philippians, one claiming to be Melchizedek’s minister of the navy and coast guard, another the minister of public works and gaming, along with a British lawyer and former prosecutor in colonial Hong Kong. The trio was accused of selling fraudulent Melchizedekian “internationally-recognized” passports for up to $3,500 a piece throughout the Philippians, China, and Bangladesh. A fourth man, the governor of Melchizedek’s claimed Pacific territories and suspected ring-leader of the group, was able to evade capture. Together they were able to rake in nearly a million dollars selling their bogus documents.

In 1990, California Pacific Bankers & Insurance LTD.— an insurance company formed by a Texan entrepreneur and alleged secretary of commerce for the sovereign nation of Melchizedek, Jeffery Reynolds, was brought into question by authorities when it became suspect of selling fraudulent surety bonds. Although the company had been registered with the Chamber of Commerce in Aruba, it was found to be unlicensed. During the investigation, the $450million in assets the company claimed to hold was determined to be completely unsubstantiated, and Reynolds was unable to provide sufficient proof of any assets what-so-ever. The Sir Francis Drake Financial Center, listed as the company’s headquarters, lead prosecutors to the same address as the US embassy for the Dominion of Melchizedek—a mail-drop in Washington D.C.. When the legitimacy of the Dominion of Melchizedek was disputed during Reynolds’ trial, his defense was that it was recognized by the Central African Republic and drew attention to the Melchizedek bible, claiming that it was not unlike the Vatican. The judge completely dismissed his claims and Reynolds was sentenced to fifty-four months in prison.

A Serious Threat

The Dominion of Melchizedek and the idea that an entire nation can exist almost exclusively in cyberspace and on paper stands as a testament to just how innovative crooks can be when it comes to swindling unsuspecting victims.  As bizarre as the notion of a non-existent sovereign nation sounds, law enforcement officials warn that the Dominion of Melchizedek is not a matter to take lightly. Associates of the Pedleys have passed fake checks worldwide through fraudulent Melchizedek banks, funneling the ill-gotten funds to international tax havens, and many high profile scams have been linked to the micronation. Even more frightening is criminals are obtaining falsified licenses, degrees, travel documents, identification, and more in order to aid them in conducting deceptive practices globally. If nothing else Melchizedek is a reminder to anyone involved within the financial community how crucial it is for them to research when necessary and trusting gut feelings when a client or a particular transaction raises red flags.