The Gifting Tables From Murder On Middle Beach Explained

Madison Hamburg's investigation into the murder of his mother Barbara "Barbie" Beach was the subject of the HBO docuseries Murder on Middle Beach, which Vanity Fair said "bucks tired trends." Barbara was beaten to death outside her home on Middle Beach Road in Madison, Connecticut in 2010, and the case is still cold. None of the theories that have been proposed have been proven, and the case has gone on to break up the family that was once very close, as Madison (pictured above) interviewed his own family members in an attempt to get to the bottom of the killing. In the process he unearthed long-buried family secrets, and went so far as to ask his own sister and aunt if they were the ones who killed his mother. The prime suspect in the case was Barbara's ex-husband and Madison's father, Jeffrey Hamburg, about whom relatives expressed suspicions, but no evidence has yet to come forth to reveal his guilt.

Another lead in the case was Barbara's involvement in a business venture called "Gifting Table." According to True Crime Buzz, Gifting Table was a supposed female empowerment group designed to help women make it through the difficult economic times of the Great Recession. In 2011, the group was exposed as a pyramid scheme, and as the Hartford Courant reported in 2016, its leader, Donna Bello, was sentenced to four years in prison for scamming women out of thousands of dollars and evading the taxes on the money she bilked from them.

Gifting Table was an obvious pyramid scheme with no product that somehow worked

Most pyramid schemes revolve around the sale of some kind of novel product that people convince others they can buy and sell like hotcakes, but actually just end up gathering dust in some poor broke sucker's garage. Gifting Table didn't work like that. Instead, its participants played on a feeling of sisterhood to get women to buy in. "They prey on women's empathy," one woman who was asked to join told the New Haven Register, "how women care about each other and how the more you put out into the world, the more that comes back to you." The Register was able to obtain an introductory guide to the group, which read: "We are a Table of women who have discovered a way to help each other fulfill our dreams ... We are women who currently are receiving enormous practical and financial benefits." That was true, for a few of the women involved. Most found themselves out $5,000 with nothing to show for it.

Here's how it worked: Each "table" was a pyramid composed of four levels, each of which was named for a different course of a meal. The eight on the bottom were known as the "Appetizers." The four on the next were the "Soup and Salads." The two on the third row were the "Entrées," and the woman sitting pretty, like a cherry on top, was the "Dessert."

It was mathematically impossible for all Gifting Table participants to earn money

The eight women on the bottom level each gave a "gift" of $5,000, which went to the woman sitting on the top to reward the Dessert with $40,000. The idea was that by recruiting more participants, one could eventually make her way from Appetizer to Dessert and receive an 800 percent return on her investment. If it sounds absolutely nonsensical, that's because it absolutely was. Author and consumer advocate Robert FitzPatrick told the Register that 90 percent of the people involved in such a scheme will never see any returns on their investment. "It's mathematically predetermined who will get money and who will lose," he said. It's actually so simple that it's astounding that the scheme even worked for as long as it did. If everyone puts in $5,000, how is everyone going to come away with $40,000?

In a rather unscrupulous move, Barbara recruited women from her Alcoholics Anonymous group, which got her quite a bit of bad press in the community, as people viewed it as her preying on a vulnerable population. And four months before she was murdered, a woman in Barbara's network filed a complaint of the organization's predatory behavior with the Connecticut Attorney General. It was said that women in her group were angry at her for the negative attention, and we're left with the question of whether or not one of them was mad enough to murder her.