|By Mark Gokavi, Dayton Daily News, Ohio|
"I called every one of these — psychologists, doctors — and they all just raved about him," said Peffley, 65. "And I said, 'well, OK, we'll give it a shot.'"
Peffley said he invested — and lost — more than
Apostelos told him he just wanted to help others, and was convincing enough that Peffley believed him.
"The really heartbreaking thing is the level of quality and integrity of his clientele is unmatched," said Peffley, whose grandfather founded the Peffley Ford business in the
Apostelos, his wife Connie and others are being scrutinized by the
No charges have been filed.
The federal investigation coincides with uncontested civil court actions enforcing promissory notes and a forced bankruptcy in
Court documents and newspaper interviews reveal Apostelos promised returns of 10 to 20 percent or more –promises experts say should be closely scrutinized.
"Anybody who promises fixed returns, you should be very leery about that. That's not real world," said
His advice for consumers is to make sure they deal with certified financial planners or registered investment advisers with references and a successful track record.
"Many of these people would invest after very little due diligence. Maybe they heard about him while on the golf course, or from friends," Hanseman said. "God bless people for being honest and trusting, but not everybody can be trusted in that way."
Experts say Ponzi schemes thrive on an operator's ability to recruit investors who recruit other investors, often using claims of returns from the people at the top of the pyramid.
"You have friends who are telling friends who are telling friends that, 'hey, this guy promised me X percent of returns, he's paying it, it's got to be legitimate and suddenly you go from dozens of investors to hundreds of investors," said
'I'm without words'
Peffley, who now lives in
"Here's what hooked me," said Peffley, who has known Apostelos since 2007. "He was out here one time and he said that the only thing he wanted to do was treat his fellow man right and do the right thing and help people because when he dies, he wants to see his (first) wife who died from cancer.
"That was it for me. … I said this guy is my kind of person. When you go that low to make (stuff) up … I'm without words."
Peffley, who has a judgment of nearly
"That's the scary thing," Hanseman said. "That somebody could pull that off for so long."
For Peffley, doubts started creeping in when he noticed that paperwork was getting withheld, he said. He talked with other Apostelos associates, who defended Apostelos.
"Other investors were mad at me; I ended up looking like the bad guy," Peffley said. "We depended on him. I kept telling him that. And he said, 'No problem. I'll get you your money.'"
When Apostelos continued to miss payments, Peffley filed a lawsuit in
Peffley said not only was he a victim, he turned other people into victims.
"I got people out here involved, … referrals that I'm heartsick about," he said.
'I believed it'
"I believed it. The people that he had working for him made him very credible," Dennis said. "It always worked out fine up until the last eight months."
Dennis, who received a judgment for about
Another investor, who asked to remain anonymous, said he initially had doubts about Apostelos and debated within himself about whether Bill was like
"I even questioned him about that in a nice way," the investor said. "I said to him, 'Bill, if you're taking people, you'll have to answer not to us, but maybe in the next life.' "
Like Peffley, he was won over by Apostelos' clients, one of whom was known to have handed over millions of dollars to Apostelos. "He's a big businessman," the investor said. "He ought to be smart enough to know also, so just things like that, I didn't suspect. I thought he was legit."
The investor, who did business with Apostelos for about a decade, said he's probably out about a quarter-million dollars of retirement money.
Hanseman said Ponzi scheme perpetrators have similar characteristics.
"The con in con man stands for confidence," he said. "These are normally fairly charismatic people that are good at explaining things. They're good at convincing people. They're good at instilling confidence."
Hanseman represented the investors who lost money to former minister and swindler
Dillabaugh, who posed as an investment adviser and pocketed
'Coming out of the woodwork'
Hanseman said his office is tracking the widening circle of potential victims: "We have been receiving phone calls every single day by people we have never heard of before literally coming out of the woodwork and saying, 'Hey, I invested, too.' What we ask them to do is to call law enforcement and let them know."
Dennis doubts Apostelos and his wife worked alone: "I can't believe that
Four people — Apostelos, his wife Connie, sister
The investor who wanted to remain anonymous said other potential victims may be ashamed and don't want to speak publicly.
"When you've lost three-quarters of your retirement and you have plans and you're trying to do some things you haven't been able to do in life, how would you feel? My jaw kind of dropped," he said. "To see these people that I know and I've invested with (and) their pictures in the paper, it wasn't good."
(c)2014 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)
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|Source:||McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|