AARP Foundation Colorado staff and volunteers recently tipped off the Denver office of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) about a suspected investment scam. The SEC investigated and, as a result, alleges that an organization called "We The People" took $75 million from more than 400 people for what the company called "a charitable gift annuity."
In a March 4 letter to the Foundation, the SEC commended AARP Foundation Colorado staff and volunteers for their “exemplary efforts.” Without their quick reporting of the suspected scam, the letter said, “hundreds of investors would still have their funds at risk in this scheme.”
Two salespeople, Richard K. Olive and Susan K. Olive, who were hired at We The People, obtained $75 million from more than 400 investors by selling what they called a “charitable gift annuity (CGA),” the SEC alleged. However, these CGAs primarily benefited the Olives and other third-party promoters and consultants; just a small amount of the funds raised went to charitable services.
The Olives, whom the SEC alleges received more than $1.1 million in salary and commissions and also siphoned away investor funds for their personal use, lured elderly investors with limited experience into the scheme. The SEC alleges the Olives made false representations about the value and financial benefits of the CGAs, and lied about the safety and security of the investments.
“The Olives raised millions from senior citizens by claiming that We The People’s so-called CGAs provided attractive financial benefits and were re-insured and backed by assets held in trust,” said Julie Lutz, associate director of the SEC’s Denver Regional Office. “Investors were not given the full story about the true value and security of their investments.”
In another recent elder fraud case, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said it is mailing 50,365 refund checks totaling more than $685,000 to consumers who were victimized by a bogus work-at-home and grant scam, Real Wealth, and its president, Lance Murkin.
In an ongoing partnership with AARP Foundation, the FTC will provide consumers receiving redress checks with contact information for the AARP Foundation Fraud Fighter Call Center, whose staff provides guidance about how to avoid scams and stay safe.