There is a connected group of con men out to fleece everyone they can. These con men have a nation: the Dominion of Melchizedek. This is about that nation and these con men.
David Evan Pedley was a con man. He taught his son Mark to be a con man. Together they wrote a new Bible and created a nation. They also swindled millions of dollars from people.
David Pedley was part of a loose organization of a hundred or so con men that came together after the Second World War. During the 1960s this group specialized in “Prime Bank Securities”, a non-existent class of investments. Chief among these criminals was Dr. Clifford Noe. (That’s right, Dr. No.) Noe was finally busted in 1972. Wall Street Journal reporter Jonathan Kwitny described this organization in his book The Fountain Pen Conspiracy. In that book, Kwitny called David Pedley “the world’s greatest con man”.
Pedley was indicted on several charges and served a few years in jail. After testifying against an organized crime family associated with some of his schemes, he was taken into a witness protection program in 1975 and given the name David Wellington. He was moved to California where he teamed up with his son in a real estate-based scam that also involved a former state Deputy Attorney General. Facing numerous indictments, the Pedleys fled to Mexico. For a time these two ran a money-laundering racket based on an imaginary off-shore bank. Mark Pedley was arrested and deported for a visa violation. Soon, David was incarcerated in a Mexican jail. It was there that he began writing The Melchizedek Bible.
In the 1940s and ’50s, David Pedley had taken lessons from Dr. Josiah Merriman, a Christian Science mystic who promoted a system based around Melchizedek, a priest mentioned twice in the Old Testament and several times in Hebrews. Over the centuries, Melchizedek has been cited by Jewish and Christian mystics as some kind or other of special being ranging from Excellent Priest to Jesus In Person.
Christian Science mysticism is, well, pretty mystical. Mary Baker Eddy emphasized spiritual truth over material evidence — “Mind” over matter — which can be a very useful tenet to a con man. After all, if reality is what we believe rather than what we can sense, than those imagined Prime Bank Securities are real. At any rate Pedley re-wrote the King James Bible (or “re-translated” it) to reflect this concept. The first part of Genesis does not refer to God creating the world of matter, it’s a metaphor for divine revelation. Or something like that.
While David was working on his holy task, Mark was in and out of jail. During the times when he was in, Mark also participated in correcting the errors in the King James Bible. By 1986, the father and son writing team had finished the important parts of this work: Genesis, Exodus, Matthew, and Revelation which was published as The Melchizedek Bible. But it was also during this time that Mark and David came up with the idea of creating a nation. Of course they named it after Melchizedek, but at this point, the country was only a name, it had no territory.
David died in 1987. At least there is an official death certificate for him from that year. When his body was received in California, Mark refused to allow authorities to fingerprint it. Some law enforcement officers believe that David never died and is still out there today, conning people. The Dominion of Melchisedek has an ambiguous comment: “…certain government regulators doubt that David is really dead. Perhaps they are correct, since good never dies.”
Mark was finally paroled in 1990. Immediately he changed his name to Tzemach ben David Netzer Korem. Later, this became Branch Vinedresser, which is, Mark says, the translation. He also operated as David Korem and, probably, other identities. Very soon after being paroled, he went back into defrauding people and was quickly busted for parole violations. Released in 1993, Mark married Elvira Gamboa ( AKA Pearlsasia and forty or so other aliases). These two set about finding territory for the Dominion of Melchizedek. Gamboa became its first president. The idea was that the DoM was an “ecclesiastical state”, like the Vatican, even though Pedley has been careful not to push an official Melchizedekan cult.
Over the years there have been several locations for this imaginary nation: Karitane Atoll that is underwater half the day, a slice of Antarctica that seemed unclaimed [see end of post for more], an island off South America composed entirely of guano (is that a metaphor or what?), and so on and so forth. Official entities from Fiji, the Marshall Islands, and many other places have denied that the Dominion of Melchizedek exists even though it claims to be situated in their territory. Here’s one location, Taongi or Ratak Atoll in the Marshall Islands group:
Why bother with all this? Well, if you have a nation you can issue currency and license banks and incorporate businesses. You can give legitimacy to organizations and institutions. If all else fails, you can sell passports. In 1998, three men who claimed a connection with Melchizedek were caught selling passports in the Phillipines for as much as $3500 each. The trio had cleared more than a million dollars in two years. One, an Australian who was already famous for a race horse fraud, escaped. The other two went to jail for a while. Mark Pedley made an official Melchizedekean announcement that anyone connected with the fraud would be removed from office in that nation.
By that time, the Dominion of Melchizedek was fairly well known to law enforcement who, time and again, made unequivocal statements that the nation was a phony and investors should steer away from any scheme connected with it. But during the 1990s, several places were fooled and actually accepted Melchizedekan passports. Mark Pedley travelled to Fiji on one and was thus able to say that Fiji recognized his nation.
Oh, yes, this is all an amusing farce and hipsters can buy a flashy cool passport to show their friends and be in on the joke. Pedley doesn’t mind a straight-faced joke or two. The quote above about his father’s death, for instance, or, after claiming a wedge of Antarctica, the list of Melchizedek’s officials changing to include a M. Pinguin. And I bet he thought it was amusing to declare war on France when they commenced nuclear testing near Ratak and then to claim victory when the tests ended two days early. It’s easy to laugh at other people being fooled and they had too much money anyway and you can’t fool an honest man and so on. But you might reflect that those folks scraping together the money for Melchizdekan passports were looking for a way to travel to places where they could earn a living as chambermaids and janitors. Continue reading