CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Victims of an alleged Ponzi scheme said they lost thousands and thousands of dollars in retirement savings, betrayed by a family friend.
A local financial adviser and two of his associates were recently charged and accused of stealing millions of dollars from dozens of Northeast Ohio-area families.
More victims are coming forward to 19 Investigates.
“What should have been my golden years, now is my stolen years,” said 72-year-old Margaret Whelan.
She worked hard for her money, logging long hours for 37 years as a nurse.
“I was working all the time, literally. No vacations. I worked weekends. I worked holidays,” she said.
She saved up and eventually invested that money, putting her trust in Westlake financial adviser Raymond Erker.
“My nephew grew up with Ray. Their fathers were best friends,” Whelan said.
She was supposed to get $1,400 a month in annuities for the rest of her life.
The checks came in for almost two years, but then she said they started bouncing around Christmas time two years ago.
“Then, January came, and more checks started bouncing. And that’s when I called the bank to see what was going on,” she said.
The bank said no money had been deposited in her account for the last five months.
So, Whelan went to Erker’s Westlake office, about a mile from her house, and found out he no longer worked there.
And she wasn’t the only one looking for answers.
Whelan said the woman working in the office told her other families had come by asking for Erker.
“I just kind of stood there stunned, having a hard time believing what had happened to me,” she said.
Everything sank in. She had lost $222,000.
Her niece later found out she lost $250,000.
In total, Whelan said almost half a million dollars was stolen from her family.
Erker, Kevin Krantz and Tara Brunst now face federal charges for stealing $9.3 million from 54 people.
Feds say they operated a Ponzi scheme from 2013 to 2018.
19 Investigates reported extensively on the indictment last week.
We interviewed another family who said they lost $250,000. Erker was also a family friend in their case.
“I’m glad it happened before I’m gone. I would like to see justice done,” Whelan said.
She worries about what will happen to her if her expensive, life-saving medication is no longer covered through assistance.
She has a chronic, terminal disease and is on oxygen.
She’s also a cancer survivor.
“I was given two years. Now, it’s been four-and- a-half,” she said.
She’s not surprised Erker allegedly took advantage of those closest to him.
“It just shows me what a poor con man he is. He had to use his family and his friends,” she said.
But Whelan has chosen to take the high road.
“I try not to really dwell on it, or anything like that, because if I do, he’s continuing to steal from me. And I won’t let him have anymore,” she said.
Raymond Erker is scheduled to be in federal court via video for an arraignment next Tuesday.
After the defendants' initial appearances in court, they will each be given a bond and the court will schedule future dates for trial.