By Brian Maass
DENVER (CBS4) – One victim who lost $150,000 to a massive Ponzi scheme calls himself “naive.” Another whose parents invested more than $600,000 says the loss “really hurts” his family.
One by one, victims of the Greenwood Village based Ponzi scheme are emerging, seeking help and legal advice — or retribution — against Dan Rudden, the area businessman who admitted on July 9 to running a Ponzi scheme that cost investors in Colorado and around the country millions of dollars.
Earlier this week, federal authorities charged Rudden with one count of wire fraud and more charges are expected.
In an interview with CBS4, Rudden initially estimated his long running scheme cost investors $55 million. He now says he thinks the actual losses might be less.
But what is not in dispute is Rudden’s confession of deceiving and stealing from investors for approximately seven years.
“It was all a lie,” said Rudden.
He began Financial Visions in 2000, a business involved in financing for cemeteries and funeral homes. For years, he says, it was thriving and original investors pocketed dividends ranging from 12 to 15 percent. He said many original investors tripled their principal.
But about seven years ago, he said the business began falling apart and turned into a Ponzi scheme, with principal from eager new investors going out the door to pay dividends to old investors.
On July 9, Rudden sent a lengthy email to some 150 investors telling them their money was all gone.
“Now the time of reckoning has arrived. There is no money for investors… it was all me. My crimes are horrendous,” wrote Rudden.
A series of emails obtained by CBS4 show that Rudden lied to investors until the last possible moment. A man in Texas invested $150,000 with Rudden and Financial Visions in 2014.
”It sounded legit,” said the investor, who asked that his name not be used. “I feel a bit stupid frankly.”
Emails between him and Rudden over the last several months show Rudden spewing a trail of lies and deception. In early June, the investor emailed Rudden asking about his money.
“Distribution Wed.,” replied Rudden. But that never happened. The Texas man emailed Rudden again.
”Dan, any news yet? If not is it time to talk?”
Rudden replied, “Yes, funds will go out this Thursday.”
When that never happened, the investor again emailed Rudden on June 29, writing, ”Dan, you at least owe me some kind of explanation as to what’s going on.”
Rudden wrote back, ”Its embarrassing. I have missed every deadline. I am in Chicago waiting on the signature of a trustee who is out of the country until Saturday. Once I get that, we will be done, done. Funds on Tuesday. There were more moving pieces. Its my fault, I apologize.”
Rudden now says everything he wrote to the investor was a lie.
”I was buying time. It was totally made up. There was no company,” Rudden told CBS4. He said he fabricated excuse after excuse.
The 67-year-old investor told CBS4, “I had planned to retire this year; I had planned to pay off my house, but that will not happen. I will probably now have to work at least 3-4 more years, if I can. He knew what he was doing, and its clear he just didn’t care. I feel sorry for any elderly people who had entrusted him with all their savings or retirement and now are left with few options. Old adage: If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.”
In California, an elderly couple is now out more than $600,000. They invested with Rudden beginning in about 2011. Their son — who asked that he and his parents not be named — said his elderly parents gave Rudden another $200,000 about eight months ago to add to their existing investment. Their son says their $600,000 loss “won’t cripple them but it really hurts the grandchildren’s education funds, etc.”
Rudden, who has cooperated with state and federal authorities, has apologized, but says he knows it doesn’t mean much.
“It’s easy to say you’re sorry after you’ve bilked people out of millions,” Rudden said.
Rudden, 71, a father of six and a grandfather, anticipates more criminal charges and expects to be sent to prison for his financial crimes.
“It’s a bad deal, as bad as you could ever dream up,” said Rudden.