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Woman Goes on Trial for Alleged 'Magic Cheese' Scam

Illustration for article titled Woman Goes on Trial for Alleged Magic Cheese Scam

Turn your eyes to France, justice enthusiasts, because there’s quite a case unfolding across the Atlantic. A woman is currently on trial for allegedly bilking people out of hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars, with pie-in-the-sky promises they could make and sell fancy cheeses to French beauty product producers.


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The authorities say it was a pyramid scheme—a pyramid built on cheese. The BBC says 74-year-old Gilberte van Erpe is charged with selling Chileans bullshit overpriced cheesemaking kits, claiming they could sell the results to the French beauty business at a fat markup. Erpe sweet-talked 5,500 people to the tune of $16.14 million total, according to estimates, before the scheme collapsed and she was arrested in 2008. Back in 2009 the Guardian reported that buyers were largely villagers without much to begin with, and Reuters talked to one of her accusers. It’s quite a bummer:

“We are modest people here, casual workers and we got more and more into debt so that we could get into the business,” she told Reuters as she prepared to file her claim with visiting French investigator and examining magistrate Sylvie Gagnard.

“I am very disappointed,” she said in tiny Cantauco, 75 miles south of the capital Santiago. “We have nothing.”

She produced the cheese at home following instructions to mix the ingredients with milk and ferment them for two weeks. The small, round cheeses she believed would be turned into expensive beauty products ended up on the scrap heap.


It’s hard to imagine a jurisdiction tougher on an alleged cheese swindler than France, though.

Image via Oksana Shufrych/Shutterstock.

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Counterpoint: all cheese is magic