Radio host gets charged in Ponzi scheme
Article by: DAN BROWNING , Star Tribune
Updated: July 20, 2011 - 10:28 PM
Pat Kiley is among three associates of Trevor Cook's to face federal charges.
Gerald Durand, Jason Beckman, Patrick Kiley
Conservative radio show host Pat Kiley claims he was just reading from a script when he told his worldwide radio audience in weekly broadcasts that he was a senior financial adviser and they could avoid financial Armageddon by entrusting him and his business partners with their money.
But federal authorities say he did much more than that. In an indictment unsealed Wednesday, Kiley was portrayed as an integral figure in the $194 million Trevor Cook Ponzi scheme that defrauded more than 700 investors.
Kiley's program, "Follow the Money," was carried on more than 200 stations nationwide, including KSTP Radio (1500 AM), and on the Worldwide Christian Radio network. He called his listeners "truth seekers" and drew them in, rich and poor alike, with promises of financial security, just as the bottom began to drop away from the stock market.
Kiley insists that he believed in the currency investment program he promoted for Cook, his longtime friend and Minneapolis money manager who was sentenced in August to 25 years in federal prison on fraud and tax evasion charges.
But a grand jury charged Kiley and two of Cook's key associates with conspiracy, mail fraud and money laundering counts.
The indictment was unsealed Wednesday after Kiley and Jason Bo Beckman, a brash 41-year-old Plymouth money manager, made their initial appearances at the federal courthouse in St. Paul. Another longtime associate of Cook's, Gerald Durand, 60, of Faribault, is expected to turn himself in soon. Each man has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.
News of the indictment traveled quickly among investors who lost money in the scheme.
Heiko Reske echoed others when he said he was delighted by the charges. After an investor lawsuit exposed the scheme in July 2009, Reske drove to the Twin Cities from his home in Denton, Texas, to demand that Kiley return his $700,000 investment. He returned home empty-handed.
"I'm amazed it took this long," Reske said on Wednesday. "The wheels of justice grind slowly, I guess."
Ty Schlobohm, a Long Lake trader who worked undercover with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in an effort to expose the scheme, applauded regulators and law enforcement for what he called their tenacious work. "I can only hope that these arrests ease the pain and offer some closure for the victims of this scheme," he said.
Kiley, 73, of Minneapolis, had produced his radio program out of a home Cook owned in Burnsville. He invited listeners to call him to learn how they could protect their money. Hundreds did, and he spent hours with them on the phone, telling them that he was a senior economist and a financial adviser to the family that owned the Kroger stores as well as engendering sympathy by falsely telling some investors that his wife had been killed in an accident involving a drunken driver.
Kiley said in an earlier interview that Cook prepared the scripts and that he had no choice but to go along. He has told federal authorities that he believed in Cook's currency investment strategy and just wanted to help investors.
Kiley initially solicited investors for a firm Cook started called Universal Brokerage Services. Durand, Beckman, Cook and Christopher Pettengill had been equal partners in a separate Minneapolis firm called Oxford Global Advisors, which operated out of the Van Dusen mansion near downtown Minneapolis. The two firms spun off a confusing plethora of related entities with either Oxford, Universal Brokerage or UBS in their names. (None was related to the international banking giant UBS AG.)
Cook, 39, has admitted to being the chief organizer. Pettengill, 54, of Plymouth, pleaded guilty in June to charges of securities fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. He's cooperating in the investigation and awaits sentencing.
The indictment charges Beckman, Durand and Kiley with conspiracy, 11 counts of mail and wire fraud, and six counts of money laundering. Kiley and Beckman were released on unsecured bonds of $100,000 and placed on special restrictions barring them from making financial transactions on behalf of themselves or others without the government's approval, and barring them from contacting investors.
Kiley: 'Not a flight risk'
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Perzel asked for the restrictions, saying she considered the men a significant flight risk.
In court, Kiley told U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Keyes that he had "probably $9 to $10" in the bank, $11 in cash and an as-yet uncashed Social Security check, "which I live off of."
"I am not a flight risk," Kiley insisted. "I have no transportation. Will I be able to get a ride home?" he asked.
Beckman seemed surprised by Perzel's comments. He had said earlier in the hearing that he wanted an attorney appointed for him as he had just "two-thousand dollars, maybe, in the bank," and the rest of his assets were tied up in a receivership.
According to the indictment, Beckman, Durand, Kiley and Pettengill misled investors to gain their confidence. As an example, it says that Beckman, a licensed securities broker, falsely claimed that Morningstar had rated him a top money manager.
In an interview this month, Beckman explained that his firm had compared its own performance against mutual funds in Morningstar's database. He acknowledged that calling that analysis a Morningstar study could be read more than one way. "Should there have been a better disclosure on the bottom? Well, OK, obviously, since there was confusion, sure," he said.
But Beckman said he thought that Cook's "currency arbitrage" strategy was legitimate. He noted that he invested his own and his family's money in the scheme. He blamed Pettengill for getting him involved and said he's spent everything he had trying to investigate where the money went in an effort to get it back.
"We got bamboozled by these worldly guys," said Beckman's wife, Hollie. After the hearing, she predicted that prosecutors will ultimately look incompetent, because her husband is innocent.
Dan Browning •