Even Close Friends Can Be Con Men

Even Close Friends Can Be Con Men

They thought they had invested their money in real estate.
They thought they had invested their money in real estate.

But instead, dozens of victims learned that the two friends they trusted like family were con men.

"I was disappointed, I was disillusioned, I was in disbelief … it was like "no, no this isn't so" these are good people," said fraud victim Shirley Lee.

That's what Shirley Lee thought when she invested her retirement savings with lifelong friends.

"The prosecutor's office called and wanted to talk about my investments," said Lee.

Shirley found out her money was gone. she along with 91 other victims had been duped in a $92 million dollar ponzi scheme.

"I never thought in a million years that these people would lie to me, and I think that hurt more than anything--that I was lied to and I wasn't discerning enough to know I was lied to…," explained Lee.

"These people" are James Powell and David Calwell.

US Postal Inspector Alejandro Almaguer said, "A lot of people invested with these two gentleman because they knew them for a long time in the community and church."

Victims were told their money was being invested in real estate.

"Ultimately what happened, some property was purchased, it went into disrepair but never was all the money put into these properties. Instead the money went into bank accounts and Calwell and Powell used them as their piggy banks," Almaguer said.

Postal inspectors say both men spent the money on their families, vacations and elaborate home re-modeling.

"Calwell lived in a small farmhouse and poured in hundreds of thousands to renovate the farmhouse. He had an indoor swimming pool, he had a barn with custom made stables for horses," said Almaguer.

Shirley lee is left with one nagging question.

"What would make you do that to somebody like this to people who trust you? What was their mindset? I kind of want to know why and hear I'm sorry," explained Lee.

Some advice from postal inspectors - do not trust someone just because he or she is a friend or part of your community.

When it comes to investing your money, always do you due diligence - not matter who you are dealing with.

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