“America’s Most Wanted“ gets results. A special presentation of the FOX program on Friday night led to authorities being able to nab a husband-and-wife Ponzi scheme team who had been on the run for 12 years. That’s why Nelson Grant Hallahan and Janet Hallahan get CompliancEX’s “America’s Most Wanted” Ponzi scheme award.
The Associated Press reported that not-so-dynamic duo pleaded guilty in 2000 to federal fraud and money laundering charges involving their scheme. Yet they skipped out on their sentencing, and have been on the lam for a dozen years. That is, until John Walsh and his show featured a segment on the couple. They were arrested in Tonopah, Arizona, the very next afternoon, thanks to a tip from a TV viewer. Sweet!
So what did the Hallahans do in their scheme? Well, they ran it out of Peoria, Illinois in the 1980s and 1990s. AMW said that Janet was once Nelson’s secretary, and he was a life insurance salesman. They promised an 11 to 12 percent return on investments, at a time where banks where paying around 5 to 6 percent interest rate. They held seminars, and got many different investors, including their family, friends, and senior citizens, AMW says.
Janet Hallahan reportedly found investors by looking through newspaper obituaries to target widows and widowers who recently came into life insurance money. They also started a tanning salon, and got customers to invest on that, but did not bother telling those investors when they had sold the business.
Needless to say, the real business they were running wasn’t an investment plan or a tanning salon; it was a $1.2 million Ponzi scheme. These “mini-Madoffs,” as some in the media have referred to them, spent their money on themselves, including extravagances like fancy Cadillacs, and even their own yacht. AMW says that the name of the boat, and the license plate on one of the Cadillaces included an apropos description of the two – SPOLYT, for spoiled. And Janet’s Mustang had the license plate LTSTAN, as in “let’s tan.” Classy!
In 2000, they ran off rather than face justice. Now, thanks to “America’s Most Wanted,” they are going to have a date with the Greybar Hotel.
David Gonzales, a U.S. marshal in Arizona, said that “the 12-year run from justice of the Hallahans, also known as the ‘Mini Madoffs,’ has come to an end.” He said that “their investment scams involving family, friends, and the elderly, ruined many lives.”
And congrats to AMW for helping find the two. They really should put that show back on the air as a regular series again, to find fugitives like these schemers.
Lisa Swan is a Feature Writer for the Compliance Exchange and the Wall Street Job Report. She is also a columnist for The Faster Times and a blogger for Subway Squawkers. Her work has also appeared in the New York Daily News, Yahoo Sports, Huffington Post and the books Graphical Player 2011 and Graphical Player 2010.