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Samuel Israel III

Samuel Israel III, 48, vanished the day he was supposed to be driving himself to prison to begin a 20-year sentence for swindling investors in his hedge funds out of more than $400 million. On June 9, 2008, Israel's SUV was found on the Bear Mountain Bridge, over the Hudson River. On the car's hood, scrawled in dust, were the words, "suicide is painless."

Mr. Israel's body has not been found. When asked about Mr. Israel a New York State police investigator said "No witnesses saw anybody jump from the bridge, and there's no evidence that he did." The F.B. I. has begun an international manhunt for him. Where is the rogue hedge-fund manager Samuel Israel III? Is he at the bottom of the Hudson River? Or is he enjoying afternoon tea at the Hyatt in Argentina? Let's take a look at his signature.

Do you see how the "m" in "Sam" juts downward? When an ending stroke extends below the baseline, I call it "the lurking lunatic stroke". Writers with the lurking lunatic stroke are stealthy, sneaky, and secretive. They tend to be loners who are practiced in revealing little or nothing of themselves or their plans to others.

When a name is crossed or x-ed out the writer is symbolically crossing himself out. Xing is common in the writing of people with self-destructive thinking and is often found in the handwriting on suicide notes. Look at the large "X" that obliterates the numeral III in Mr. Israel's signature. The X reflects Mr. Israel's self-negating attitude. It also reveals that Mr. Israel didn't much like the pressure of being "the third". He confessed that the anxiety to live up to his family’s name was one of the reasons for the fraud. Mr. Israel’s grandfather and namesake, Samuel Israel, owned an international commodities trading company with offices in more than 100 countries. The family sold the business in 1981 for $42 million.

Update: Exactly 2 weeks after this column appeared in newspapers Samuel Israel turned himself in.


© Copyright 2008 Michelle Dresbold and James Kwalwasser