The Mysterious Mister Hokum 5: Almost Made It

In conclusion to his DerbyCon presentation, Jason Scott tells the things he learned about Robert Hoquim from his family and how Aleshe’s life came to its end.

A picture from John’s childhood I was talking to Aleshe’s brother about: “Where do you guys come from?” And here is a picture: Tom is on the bottom here, sitting in the corner (see right-hand image). There’s John – second from the left on the second row. Letterman, played tennis, got involved in other sports, smiling, all these guys in Las Vegas – good lives.

Aleshe’s adopted parents I mean, the parents, the adopted parents were fantastic – that’s their adopted parents, a photo of them (see left-hand picture). The only thing that may be an issue was that the mother Margaret died in 1977, a few years before John went off. Did the loss of his adopted mother change him and make him look at life differently? Tom thought maybe he fell in with a bad crowd.

He is left with answering as many questions about his brother. One of the things he will not, however, say is that he was a good man. The estate issue after his brother’s death was fantastic. He told me it took 10 years to unwind the legal ramifications of the estate. By the time it was done, there was no money left. So he was never given any money as the sole survivor. People came forward from all directions to go: “We need our money!”

Yet another group photo This is another group photo (see right-hand image). If I sound philosophical about this, it’s because as somebody who makes documentaries – anybody who has seen my documentaries, and I’ve made a few about such things as text adventures and bulletin board systems – I very quickly realized that we really don’t care about the metal, we don’t care about the network – we care about the people. Who are the people that do this?

Why do they care? Every time I interviewed people, their answers were always along the lines of “I met my best friend on a computer bulletin board.” It would be less important for them what version of Cnet was running at the time, but who was their friend. And when I see this picture, in this picture is somebody who committed millions of dollars in fraud for the rest of his life. And the rest of them – probably not as much. So, philosophically, it just fascinates me.

One of Hoquim’s Corvettes This is one of the cars that he owned (see left-hand image). He was a Corvette collector, and it’s funny to watch his name in documents. I looked through a lot of legal documents that would say things like: “IQuest’s previous owner was a wanted fugitive from the FBI, therefore this, this and this…” And these cars all got sold. This is one of his cars, it says: “Previously, of the Robert Hoquim collection.” So his name lives on in both false and greatness.

I was mostly haphazardly looking at this story over the years, and what I thought was interesting is that at one point I went to a computer show in Indianapolis, and I met a man who had been in Indianapolis working on another ISP. They were competitors, but they were also good friends, to as much as these two could be friends. And they would hang out together. And so, he was as shocked as anyone else. But he told me something so amazing. He said: “When you’re an ISP, you’re the center of a network and things can happen. You’re kind of like a landlord, or somebody who owns things. You know, law enforcement takes an interest in you.”

And so, as part of keeping track of crime and other stuff in the late 1990s, Robert Hoquim and this other person would meet with the head of the local FBI office once a month for lunch, for years on end, to catch up on how things were going. And I was like: “He’s on the Wanted list and he’s hanging with the FBI. What an amazing amount of self-control and brass balls!”

There’s a lot to be learned from a life like this.

And his wife said to me: “Yes, and he died of a heart attack at 41.” And it’s true – he was always on the run. The price he paid for getting to do what he wanted was that he was constantly in fear, this man.

And one of the things that came out in my research, which wasn’t pointed out, was that there had been a clerical error when they were divesting the rest. IQuest had been sold for $14 million, and they indicated in couched and very careful language and stuff that it turned out 7 million of it had ended up in his private account. And I’m sure to them it was like: “Oh, what’s up with that?” And I think the answer was: “He was going to do the bug-out again.” I think he was going to go for it.

In this world we’re living now, with so much being offered to us and so many dreams coming true, I think there’s a lot to be learned from a life like this. I think that there’s a lot to be learned from somebody who looked at the world this way and what things we buy into and just accept, even though we all preach distrust in building networks, and how one smiling face can convince us to undo everything we’ve ever done. Down in the speaker room there’s a beautiful AP that we’re seeing down there called “Perfectly trustable Internet hotspot.”

The mysterious Mister Hokum I’ve tried to think: “What did Robert Hoquim think while he was dying?” I don’t know how fast it was; I don’t know how quickly his heart attack took him: 300 pounds, overweight, having rejected all things, all family, having not seen his own brother for 15 years, having not known his own father had died, not knowing who he was going to run to next, but knowing that he had $7 million quietly in the bank that was going to send him to whatever new journey he was going to take. And all I could think was that this man was in this basement apartment in this house, thinking: “I almost made it.”

Thanks a lot!

Read previous: The Mysterious Mister Hokum 4: Fraud as a Desire Path

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