The American Dream

By Tom Watkins.

Earlier in this year (1999) I watched a late night news programme broadcast by ITV, it was called “Tonight.” One item featured an English woman married to an American. They had been convicted of selling “get rich quick kits” and sentenced to a phenomenally long sentence. I thought I must have got this wrong it was so unbelievable. On Thursday, 26th August this story was repeated again, this time I recognised what was coming and used my VCR to record that part of the programme.

This was the story of Chantal McCorkle, a young Englishwoman from Slough in Berkshire. She had gone to America, worked as a waitress and married a millionaire. They lived in Orlando in sunny Florida.

They had built a business selling home study programmes consisting of books and videos teaching the purchaser how to buy repossessed real estate and government surplus cheap, and how to then sell at a profit. They promoted their product using 28 minute advertisements on cable TV called infomercials and by organising seminars. Their business at one time had as many as 400 employees.

In the TV adverts they were pictured with stretch limousines, helicopters, ships and planes as backdrops. The name William J. McCorkle was on these things as if William, Chantal’s husband, owned them, but all turned out to be leased or rented. People were seen in the adverts giving testimony that the McCorkle’s money making schemes had worked for them, making them rich, but these people were employees or actors or actresses. The impression given by William McCorkle was that his millions had been made by following the tuition in their study courses.

Prosecutors contended that over a six year period the McCorkles had made 28 million dollars. They were charged with fraud, conspiracy and because they had an off-shore bank account, money laundering. During their trial, defence attorney F. Lee Bailey said McCorkle was a fair businessman who had issued 38,800 refunds over the years totalling 4 million dollars. The majority of their customers had been satisfied.

On November 4th, 1998 William McCorkle was found guilty of 82 counts of fraud and money laundering, he collapsed in the dock and had to be taken to hospital. Chantel, who wept uncontrollably throughout the hearing, was found guilty on 69 counts. In January 1999 both were sentenced to
over 24 years in prison.

Chantal has since been interviewed by British television. She said her sentence was so ridiculous that she would have got less for murder, being a child rapist, for importing 33 tons of marijuana or for being involved in child pornography. She insisted there was no criminal intent and she believed they were doing nothing illegal. She was not a criminal. Leasing or renting equipment by businesses was not unusual and their courses did work if buyers tried hard enough. There were customers who had made from 30,000 dollars up to 650,000 dollars and this proved it.


Their advertising was no less truthful than others and as an example she cited the advert where a lady said she had a headache, took a pill and then said (miraculously) the headache had gone. The pill did work, in time, but then so did their study courses. The McCorkle’s lawyer was also interviewed. He confirmed that no-one using the McCorkle’s programmes has lost more than 5000 dollars and that most losers lost LESS than 100 dollars.

The evil of prosecutor, Paul Byron, became apparent when (on screen) he was told that Chantal insisted there was nothing wrong with the programmes. Byron said if he had known this he would have asked for an EVEN LONGER sentence.

Chantal’s family in England say that to mount an appeal will cost 250,000 UK pounds (around 375,000 US dollars). The McCorkle’s money and property has all been confiscated by the state of Florida so making this near impossible.

The sentence in this case is so extreme I believe it is obscene. An incredible act of hate, of spite and of vengeance. It has nothing at all to do with justice but everything to do with the personalities of the prosecutors and their ego. Florida does not come out of this affair with any credit.


A site fighting this injustice: