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New Documentary Warns Montanans about Investment Fraud

AARP Montana and the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Monica J. Lindeen are teaming up to feature a new documentary film Gold Diggers, Investment Fraud in the Treasure State produced by Commissioner Lindeen’s office.  Narrated by film, stage, and television star Bill Pullman, the documentary tells the shocking stories of two of Montana’s most egregious investment schemes in recent history. By preying on the elderly, two respected investment brokers were able to steal millions from their clients without being noticed.

See Also: AARP Scams and Fraud News

"More than two hundred years ago, prospectors flocked to what we now call the Treasure State in search of fortunes," said Lindeen.  "Although Montana's prospector days are long behind us, we have a new brand of gold diggers who prey on our trust in search of fortunes.  Modern day gold diggers are scammers and con-artists who can steal a life savings in the blink of an eye."

Critically acclaimed film actor Bill Pullman narrates the documentary film. Pullman is perhaps best known for his role as President of the United States in the sci-fi blockbuster "Independence Day.” When he is not acting, Pullman enjoys spending time on his Montana ranch, restoring historic barns and teaching at Montana State University in Bozeman.

The two recent cases of investment fraud in Montana that Gold Diggers tracks are the Arthur Heffelfinger case in Helena and the Anne Marie Schlenker case in Bozeman.  Combined, the two scams robbed dozens of Montana investors of more than $3 million, leaving victims in financial ruin.  The film features interviews with victims, securities experts, and regulators and attorneys who investigated and prosecuted the two crimes.

Heffelfinger was sentenced to prison for elder abuse in a Ponzi scheme that fleeced a 97-year-old widow suffering from advanced dementia. Schlenker was sentenced to prison for wiring funds from a 72-year-old retiree's account into her personal account to pay off her jewelry debt.  

Elder exploitation is a growing problem. A June 2011 study by MetLife (The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse) found that financial fraud and abuse perpetrated against the elderly in the United States rose by 12 percent in 2009 to $2.9 billion, compared to $2.6 billion in 2008. Because most cases are unreported due to embarrassment or fear, the problem is believed to be much larger than statistics indicate.

Lindeen showed special screenings of the documentary in mid October in towns across the state including Missoula, Belgrade, Dillon, Butte, and Helena as part of her office's continuing effort to educate Montana investors about securities fraud and how to spot fraud before it starts. Lindeen plans on continuing the documentary tour in 2012 with stops in Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls, Havre and many more towns across Montana.  The tour was launched with a star-studded premier in Helena where Lindeen was joined by award-winning actor Bill Pullman.

The documentary is scheduled to air at the end of November on TVMT, the statewide network of community access channels as well as PBS stations in Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Missoula, and Great Falls. Check the listing of cable channels in communities across Montana.

"Education is the silver bullet when it comes to fighting fraud," said Lindeen.  "The more Montanans know about their rights and where they can turn for help, the better they can protect themselves from modern day gold diggers."

Lindeen's office produced Gold Diggers with a grant from the Investor Protection Trust, a nationally-recognized, securities education organization that helps consumers make informed investment decisions.  All funding for the Trust comes from voluntary and court-ordered contributions from criminals who commit investment fraud.

“I would like to applaud the Securities and Insurance Commission for protecting this vulnerable segment of our society by aggressively prosecuting con artists that commit crimes against elderly Montanans,” said AARP Montana State President Joy Bruck.  “they should also be commended for producing this documentary to further educate folks about the growing problem of elder financial exploitation.”

Learn more about Gold Diggers: Investment Fraud in the Treasure State on the Securities and Insurance Commission's website. 

To report suspicious activity or fraud, call the Commissioner's office at 1-800-332-6148.

Order a free copy of the DVD Gold Diggers: Investment Fraud in the Treasure State, call 406-444-7834 or e-mail cpalmer3@mt.gov.

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