Con-Artist Passed Himself as Heir to Bakelite Fortune Swindled Travellers Out of Over $700 Thousand

Published May 21st, 2018 - 05:00 GMT
Jesse Gordon, former student from Birmingham (AFP/File Photo)
Jesse Gordon, former student from Birmingham (AFP/File Photo)

A young man from Birmingham has been accused of deceiving wealthy 'extreme explorers' by claiming to be the heir of the Bakelite fortune.

According to reports in Rolling Stone Magazine and The Times the 25-year-old from Birmingham introduced himself to fellow travellers as William Baekeland, the great-grandson of Leo Hendrick Baekeland, who made his fortune from his invention Bakelite.

However, Baekeland was in fact Jesse Gordon, a former student from Birmingham. To the extreme travellers it is said, Gordon had visited the majority of the 193 countries in the world and was the perfect man to arrange trips to the most inaccessible parts of the globe.

He legally changed his name from Gordon to Baekeland in 2014.

According to Rolling Stone magazine, Baekeland introduced himself to a group of intrepid travellers on board a ship called the Ortelius in March 2015 which was en-route to a tiny Norwegian territory called Bouvet Island, which is located between Antarctica and South Africa.

The uninhabited island is about 1,500 miles south of Cape Town.

Witnesses reportedly said Baekeland had wooed those on the voyage and soon began wiring him large amounts of cash to arrange other extreme trips.

The young man, who was 22 at the time, was described by fellow travellers as 'a throwback to David Livingstone'.



Over the next two years, Baekeland allegedly convinced several of the group to hand over approximately £525,000 ($706,913) for future trips, only some of which actually took place.

According to The Times, Baekeland had not left Britain until he was aged 15 when he went on a Scout camp to Canada.

His sister Jasmine Gordon revealed: 'Our parents are normal working-class people, we are not particularly wealthy. We always stayed in England for our holidays, usually Dorset.

'When he was a teenager Jesse always said he wanted to be the youngest person to go to every country in the world. He was always reading and very interested in geography.'

His family apparently only realised he had changed his name when they saw his new passport in 2014.

Ms Gordon added: 'When my mum asked him why he had changed his name he always came up with a different excuse. He was always a bit secretive and we never really knew what was going on. My mum was always very proud of him, but not so much recently. He told us he is now living in Scotland, but we don’t know if that is true.'

Joshua Radcliffe, who went to King Edward VI Grammar School in Birmingham with Baekeland denied his friend was involved in any form of a con.

Radcliffe, who was listed as a director of Atlas Travel and Expeditions Limited along with Baekeland, said his friend had arranged trips to several amazing places such as Palmyra Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

He said it was his friend's intention to repay all of the clients.

According to details held by Companies House, Baekeland ceased to be a person of significant control in the company in November 2017.

MailOnline has approached Atlas Travel and Expeditions Limited for a comment.


This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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