This well-known scammer's rambling tale covered everything from dog poo to biofuels.
It might have been a bad phone line or perhaps my over-active imagination, but I was sure my cold-caller told me he was from the Camorra, the Naples version of the Mafia.
He wasn't. His organisation just sounded similar – and it wasn't far off the name of one of Japan's biggest investment banks either.
He called himself James P, he had a strong South African accent and claimed to have spoken to me last October. This wasn't true, but then little else over the three subsequent calls I had from him was true either.
A classic boiler room scam
James, who claimed to be in Hong Kong, told me his firm was involved in dealing in "advisory asset management" with a speciality in "alternative energy" and bio-fuels.
"Of course," he said, "I usually deal with corporate and institutional investors." He repeated this several times, never explaining why he was bothering with little old me.
He did however warn me against being a "time-waster", before the line went dead. Had he sussed me out? But no, ten minutes later he called back, explaining he had to take a very urgent call from a massive corporate client – a clever move!
James was a perfect example of somebody that 'works' in a share-pushing boiler room. He asked me about "my investments" and enquired if a "15 to 20% return would be good" compared with my present portfolio.
"A quick question," he said. "If you like it, would £10,000 be a comfortable level for you? Are you liquid for that? We are not looking for large amounts."
He said: "We have a meeting later on today to find out if we have the go-ahead to release this for retail customers as our institutional clients may not want this."
Then James said the investment was a "second generation bio-fuel opportunity".
He asked: "Have you looked into bio-fuels? They are cheaper and cleaner. The company we recommend turns dog faeces waste into ethanol for cars. It costs the UK £20 million a year to clean up canine poo so it is a big market."
He then "wanted to make me feel comfortable" and, apparently forgetting the £10,000, asked me if I could invest £5,000.
"As advisers, it is illegal for us to execute a purchase. So we use licensed stockbrokers in the UK for this."
"Which one?" I asked.
"I don't know which one. We use lots and they are all very busy," was the less than convincing answer.
A secret investment related to the London Olympics!
James called again the next day.
"I've got great news for you. Our corporate and institutional investors have already made 25%. And I am 95% sure we will get the green light to roll out to new investors. We could have a £250,000 block and you could have £30,000. You could be in at the same level as our corporate clients, but I don't want you to get too excited!"
"What's the investment?" I queried.
"I can't tell you the name but it was in the London Olympics and on Sky News. The price will rocket and as the allocations are small, there might not be any left for you."
Ten seconds later, he finally told me the name – it was a "green" company which made electric cars. So it was nothing to do with bio-fuels or dog mess.
"Think Google or Microsoft or Apple. It will make you that sort of money. I shall call you at midday. It is crucial I get hold of you so be sure to be by a phone. "
He assured me "the file will be sent to the allocated broker who will only process the deal when he is happy that I have not coerced you. Then the regulators will allocate a transfer agent. We can't delay even one hour. We are stock market advisers, not one of those brokers who shouts at you over the phone."
Things turn nasty
James phoned back on time. "I'm sure you loved it," he enthused.
I had found the company (it is not quoted) but there were no figures. I asked if I could see a balance sheet or an income or profit statement. After all, without those I wouldn't know what I'm buying.
"These are confidential. You need to understand we have met their board and, as advisers, we only bring forward companies we are confident of. We work closely with the company."
But if they work closely with the company, how could James be an independent adviser?
James obviously did not like being questioned. "Don't shout at me. I am not the reason for your bad investment decisions. You need a licence to see financial numbers and you're just a private investor," he said before putting the phone down.
James had claimed he had been working with the firm for seven years (even though it was only set up in March this year).
I am reliably informed that James P is well known as a boiler room operative and has emerged in previous scams. But while it is not clear whether this is the same James each time or several people using this name, it is very clear that if I had sent off my £5,000, I would never have seen my money again.