Tuesday, July 27, 2010

When safety turns to sin

Greed is a deadly sin with many faces. We tend to think of it as a mindless appetite for ever more. It can also manifest as a slavish holding on to something that wants to slip away.

Something like "value" when markets are loosing their value.

In times like that, only the greedy stay around, lured on by the dreams of past profits and the prophets of future gains. There is no virtue in staying with a losing proposition. There is no virtue in throwing good money after bad, most especially when it is your hard earned savings.

It is the nature of things that they tend to shrivel and deteriorate. Savings do that too, and only the greedy ignore it.

Minnesota, God and the $190 million fraud
1,200 investors, and more than $190 million lost in just 3 years. It all began as market turmoil gained momentum in the run-up to the Great Recession, and investors were searching for a safe haven for their savings.

Minnesota money manager Trevor Cook and radio show host Pat Kiley said they had the answer, with the promise of solid returns and a no-loss guarantee. The Securities and Exchange Commission, however, calls it a "scheme to defraud perpetrated by Cook and Kiley."

Minnesota natives Mary Dingman, 62, and her sister Vicki Krisko lost nearly everything. Dingman worked as Cook's office manager, and then invested with him. "I did it because I thought it was safe," Dingman said. "I've lost everything ... He got my 401(k), savings account, my house, my life insurance account."

"People did not invest in this out of greed. They invested in it because they thought it was safe," said Kyle Garman who used to work for Cook as a salesman, and whose family lost nearly $4 million in the fraud.

Cook, 38, was head of Oxford Global Advisors and Oxford Global Partners, and touted risk-free returns of 10% to 12% through a foreign currency investment program that government regulators say he started in 2006.

"There's no risk. So we do not lose our client's money," Cook told investors in a promotional DVD obtained by CNNMoney.

Kiley, 72, used the airwaves to get the word out on his weekly Christian radio program, "Follow the Money." Kiley called his listeners "truth seekers" and appealed to their distrust of Wall Street and the government.

"I lied to investors about many things," Cook told a federal judge at his plea hearing.

Kiley claims he didn't participate in any criminal wrongdoing, and says he believed investor accounts were liquid at all times. Kiley also denies squandering money or mismanaging investors' funds.

"Pat Kiley never expected there was anything wrong with these investments. He continued to believe he was doing good for all his clients," Kiley's attorney told CNNMoney.

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