Victims taken for millions in investment fraud scam
CINCINNATI (WKRC) - The pitch was strong: Invest your money and make a 10 percent rate of return.
It's a pitch that has lured people over the years, both in the Tri-State and around the nation.
As Local 12 Troubleshooter Howard Ain shows, millions of dollars have been lost.
Lalah Larew and her late husband were always focused on having enough money to retire.
Her husband, who was a farmer, met a woman who told him about an investment that would give a 10 percent rate of return.
“He called the company and got details and he said ‘you know, this sounds okay,’” said Lalah.
The Larew's decided to invest $30,000 with Donna Brown and Budget Finance Company and signed a contract.
“It was folded and looked like a deed. It had letterhead and everything like that. It had the interest rate on it and then we started receiving quarterly statements,” said Lalah.
According to those quarterly statements, their investment was steadily growing. So, they invested another $30,000.
Two years ago, Lalah's husband learned he had an aggressive form of cancer and passed away.
Lalah then began organizing their finances and decided to call on their investments.
“I got a recording that said Budget Finance Company is closed indefinitely. Wow. That was a stunner. I just thought ‘what is going on?’” said Lalah.
She began searching the internet and found out she was one of 800 victims in a scam with $32 million in losses.
“I don't think I’ll get that money back,” said Lalah.
Postal inspectors say Budget Finance was initially a legitimate company, but something changed.
“New investment money was coming in to fund old investors interest, principle withdrawals, that sort of stuff,” said US Postal Inspector Ian Ortega.
Inspectors say there were red flags.
Be very leery of any investment opportunities that guarantee high rates of return. Don't just rely on word of mouth. You have to do your proper due diligence.
Lalah says she learned her lesson and she wishes they had done more homework.
We should have done in the beginning, the very beginning.
Donna Brown was convicted of running the scam and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
She was ordered to pay restitution to her victims.