Fantasy Island: The Strange Tale of Alleged Fraudster Pearlasia Gamboa


Illustration by Sam Bosma

The woman who more often than not calls herself Pearlasia Gamboa withdraws three sets of government identification from her wallet — two California driver's licenses and a U.S. passport — and spreads them on the table. Each bears a different name next to her own photo. A handsome Filipina who looks younger than her 60 years, Gamboa has high cheekbones, dark eyes, and glossy black hair. "I have to show you all my IDs," she says with pride.

Pearlasia, aka Elvira Gamboa, aka Pearlasia Gamboa, has granted an audience with a reporter this May afternoon for the purpose of demonstrating that she is not a con artist. Showing off her panoply of assumed names might seem an odd way to start. Then again, there is little about Gamboa that conforms to expectations.

She calls attention to a fourth form of identification, a green-and-gold business card bearing the company name "Pearl Asian Mining, Inc." Alongside a headshot of a beaming Gamboa in a yellow headdress and red beads is the name Bae C. Catiguman. It means "Princess of Unity," she explains, a title she claims was given to her by warring indigenous tribes among whom she brokered peace in the mountains of the Philippines. "I am a princess," Gamboa/Catiguman says.

According to federal and state authorities, she is also a serial scammer. A resident of Redwood City, Gamboa has been investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for fraudulently soliciting investments in an allegedly phony Philippine gold-mining operation between 2004 and 2008.

She is also facing accusations that she stole more than $300,000 from a San Francisco real-estate investor with ties to the family of infamous "Hollywood Madam" Heidi Fleiss, and then threatened to dismember him this year when he tried to get his money back.

And that's before the story of Pearlasia Gamboa starts to get really strange.

Gamboa is the past president of the Dominion of Melchizedek, an enigmatic island nation in the South Pacific. Leaders associated with Melchizedek — named after a holy man who makes a brief appearance in the Book of Genesis — say it is an ecclesiastical state similar to the Vatican, with its own laws and religion. However, it has never received diplomatic recognition from most countries, which may be because the atoll claimed as its territorial capital lies underwater at high tide. And the prominence of convicted con artists in the upper echelons of Melchizedekian government raises questions about the country's legitimacy and true purpose.

David Korem, the Dominion's former vice president and Gamboa's husband, has been prosecuted several times by federal officials in connection with financial crimes. Gamboa acknowledges he was engaged in illegal activity, but denies allegations that she has committed fraud or theft. Instead, she insists, contrary to the assertions of federal and state authorities, that she is a spiritual leader and entrepreneur who has innocently run afoul of laws intended to protect consumers from investment fraud.

"I don't want you to distort everything," she tells SF Weekly. "I want the truth. I'm coming to you. I'm showing you everything."

Getting to the bottom of that truth requires delving into a story that might have resulted from an artistic collaboration between Ian Fleming and Salvador Dalí. Gamboa's tale involves secret ore deposits, hidden stocks of Soviet nuclear armaments, the Queen Mary ocean liner, portions of Antarctica, a new version of the Bible, allegations of fake deaths and miraculous resurrections, and a collection of some of the most colorful aliases ever to grace America's criminal and civil case dockets. (According to court documents, Korem also answers to the names Tzemach Ben David Netzer Korem and Branch Vinedresser.)

While it's impossible to deny the outré entertainment value of Gamboa's dealings, this is comedy with an edge. Her latest alleged victim, real-estate investor Eric Diesel, says he fears Gamboa might try to do him physical harm. The SEC alleges in court filings that Gamboa persuaded a New York financial firm — which is not identified, per standard agency practice — to sell $5.4 million of stock in her fake gold-mining concern.

Given the complexity and diffuse nature of some contemporary stock investments, it's not always easy to put names and faces to those Gamboa and Korem are said to have defrauded over the years. But authorities say real people lost substantial sums as a result of the pair's bizarre schemes.

"They're highly entertaining," says Steven Suchil, a private insurance lawyer in Sacramento who investigated Gamboa on behalf of the state of California in the 1990s. "Unless you're burned by them."

In 1995, Gamboa appeared at a small bank in Shasta County seeking a $20,000 car loan. Rather than apply for a personal loan, she sought this sum on behalf of a financial entity she called Bankasia AG. A clerk suspected something wasn't right and reported her to state officials, who told her that it was illegal to represent herself as a bank without proper licensing.

California financial regulators were not prepared for what came next. "Her response was to come back with all this information about the Dominion of Melchizedek and how it was a licensed bank," recalls Kenneth Sayre-Peterson, acting general counsel for the state banking department, which investigated Gamboa at the time. Looking into it, investigators realized that the car loan was just the tip of the iceberg. Gamboa and Korem, he says, "were soliciting deposits from people. There was fraud involved."

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* Pearlasia Gamboa (alias for Elvira Gamboa) was the president of International Monetary Reserve (“IMR”).

* Louis Lesser was Chairman of the Board of Directors of International Monetary Reserve (“IMR”).

* David Korem is the pretend-to-be-estranged-husband of Elvira Gamboa.

* Kathy Sanson is the daughter of Louis Lesser.

* Craig Lesser was the son of Louis Lesser.

* Craig Lesser was sued for kidnapping and drugging people for the Adi Da cult.

* Kathy Sanson is a member of Craig Lesser, LLC

* Craig Lesser, LLC was a major shareholder of UN Dollars.

* Elvira Gamboa and Louis Lesser operated International Monetary Reserve from 1156 Shadow Hill Way, Beverly Hills, 90201 -

* International Monetary Reserve was called “one of the most diabolical schemes in recent memory" by the Italian newspaper La Republica - 

* The Anti-Mafia Directorate in Rome is hunting for Korem, Gamboa, and the elusive leader of International Monetary Reserve -  


Louis Lesser was mentor and early partners of Warren Buffet, landlord owning Howard Hughes’ aircraft facilities, and partners with JFK in the largest urban renewal project in western US history. Developer Donald Trump called Louis Lesser “the Legend” as the biggest developer in the history of the Western United States. Louis Lesser was partners with Meyer Lansky in owning Las Vegas Hotels and casinos. Louis Lesser was last in the news in a fight with Jimmy Hoffa’s attorney Morris Shenker over a Teamsters deal in Las Vegasr. In 2009, Louis Lesser was in a fight with Clippers owner and attorney/developer Donald Sterling over who developed Sterling Towers, renamed from Lesser Towers -


* More information on the more unusual aspects of this story, and links to some associated international news stories, is here -

*Here is a page  background documentation -

* Here is the Wikipedia page on Eric John Diesel -

* Here is the Wikipedia page on Elvira G. Gamboa -

* Here is one of the email threats she sent as "Princess Bae" to Heidi Fleiss' father (Paul Fleiss) and Aldous Huxley's nephew (Piero Ferrucci) -

* Here is a little more information (click on "more" in the section called "The Dominion of Meyer Lansky: Louis Lesser's Life Story") - 

(That last link also shows which law enforcement officials are investigating, in the "connections" section.)

Babaldy 1 Like

Eric (OOP) Diesel is very charming and amusing man. Whom on first impression is one of a clown.Poor fellow.


Don't be so quick to feel sorry for him. He is a vile person.

Getting high is more important to him than the safety of innocent people, which is why he has multiple DUIs and a revoked license, and the real reason he is homeless.

The family of his supposed "business partner," 94-year-old Louis Lesser, have restraining orders against him because he is a relentless, deranged stalker.

He was also convicted for water pollution, among other weird and disturbing activities.

Anon 1 Like

Do you have the details of the restraining orders?


@Anon There is no restraining order. Louis Lesser's son, Craig Adolph Lesser, was partners with Robert N. Rooks and David Korem. Louis Lesser's daughter, Kathey Sansom, manages Criag Lesser, LLC, which is the principal shareholder of International Monetery Reserve, of which Louis Lesser was chair of the Board of Directors when Elvira Gamboa was president. Michael Ioane is Gamboa's "senior broker" for IMR real estates. Michael Ioane was named as a defendant with David Korem in another fraud action. If you click on the Linkedin page of Michael Ioane -, he keeps being propped up with endorsements on his Linkedin page by Jack Farcas, who claims to be "commander in chief" of the Layette district Freemasons - , and they pretend to have judges and crooked cops in their pocket by means of their nuttball cult. 


This story is about a seriously mentally ill woman who continues to be taken advantage of - first by a "husband" who was trained by his own father to be a con-artist, and then by a reporter who wanted to mock the life of someone clearly in need of some help. What I find utterly disturbing about this story is Jamison's lack of integrity in choosing to cite the names of two children - minors, innocent young people with classmates whose parents will likely read this. First amendment rights and all, I don't understand how a) making fun of a mentally ill person is newsworthy, or b) how it is at all ethical to drag children through the dirt when they are already subjected to the odd if not unhealthy behaviors of their parents.

Look it up
Look it up

That creepy guy Eric Diesel is as bad or probably worse than anyone else in this article. He was convicted and fined over $300,000 in California for creating some bizarre pet cemetery.


@Look it up

You have it backwards - CBS News and the president of Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists say that Diesel was the one who ultimately stopped Cal Trans from  dumping, in what they called CalTrans' Secret Pet Cemetery , and the phony initial conviction was overturned in federal court, and Diesel was compensated, according to CBS News and the other references cited here -

Look it up needs to look things up a little better.

Tim Hanner
Tim Hanner

The world would be so boring without the insane.

John Rinaldi
John Rinaldi

How can there not be one comment besides mine? There were 600 fucking comments on the puke in Dolores park thing. This is actual news, in the real world of actual people who actually do things and no one has a peep. She is the president of a island nation that is underwater for 5 hours a day!!!!! C'mon, you gotta be kidding me!!!!!! She bought property in Antartica and named it Penguini. The world is her clam sauce. I for one am dissapointed that the MIsion Man or at least Eric Sir would come here and call all of them morons or.... something. C'mon... someone at least tie this into the conspiracy to keep photographs of Blue Bottle flavored vomit from being sold at my illegal American Apparel outlet on Army street... or something. Anything!!!!!!!!

John Rinaldi
John Rinaldi 1 Like

Holy shit. It's all real. Oh. My. Dear. God. I've been listening to this crap for years. Eric Diesel is known to us as Oooops, his pet nick name. He's the smartest person I ever met. I brought him food from time to time at hotel rooms, and met that woman. I can't belive she's 60. Wow. Oooops is a mathematician. He paid my mortgage once when I broke my wrist. He buys land that have no roads to get to them. He's a weird guy, for sure. But harmless and mirthful. Island nations that are underwater at high tide. Why didn't I think of that? They are definatly right about the Koreans, the Fleiss clan and Oooops owning Mercedes Benz of Mountain View. Last time I saw Oooops, I got drunk and he STOLE over 350 novelty vomits I had left over from the whole Dolores Park kerfluffle. That bastard.

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