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Troubleshooter Alert: Broker steals millions from clients

Broker steals millions from clients (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - A trusted financial advisor was able to steal millions of dollars.

The man is in prison now, but as Local 12 Troubleshooter Howard Ain reports, his victims are still out their money.

This is the story of how a financial adviser was able to swindle and betray a lot of his clients as you'll see, there's a lesson here for all of us.

“Some mornings I just didn't even want to get out of bed, you know. Just didn't want to face the day,” said Linda Relerford, a victim of fraud.

Linda says when she learned she lost $130,000 in an investment scheme, she was stunned.

“That was a lot of money for me. It took me a long time to accumulate that,” said Linda.

The long-time teacher began looking for someone to help her manage her savings as she approached her retirement.

Her sister worked with investment adviser, Mark Stafford, who at the time worked with the firm “Allianz.”

When Linda became a client, Stafford began telling her about new investment opportunities.

“They would be able to make more money and had encouraged them to start investing in this company called Quest Holdings and then it turned into Gain Capitol,” said Anna Hallstrom, a US Postal Inspector.

What clients didn't know is Stafford no longer worked for Allianz and was encouraging them to move their money into these new funds instead of Allianz.

The problem? Those two funds never actually existed.

“I didn't call the company or check on my money or go on the website and look. I just didn't take that initiative,” said Linda.

Postal inspectors say Stafford was an investment adviser who got in over his head and began running a scheme.

“I don't think he intentionally set out to defraud all of these people, but it ended up defrauding them,” said Hallstrom.

“I was in denial. I just couldn't believe this was happening because he was such a good person working with my sister. And all of a sudden, things were just flip-flopped,” said Linda.

31 victims lost over $1,000,000.

“That was the most difficult part about this case. Was when we began interviewing the victims, they didn't know that they were victims yet. In each of the interviews there was a time when you could see it kind of come over their face, "wait a minute, I lost this money?"” said Hallstrom.

Unfortunately, the answer to the question was 'yes.'

Postal inspectors say no matter how much you trust a person or a recommendation, you must do your own research when it comes to your finances.

Mark Stafford pleaded guilty to mail fraud and filing a false tax return. He was sentenced to three years

in prison and ordered to pay more than $1,000,000 restitution to victims.

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