Ponzi scheme couple caught after 12 years

2012-05-07 12:00
Tonopah - An Illinois couple who spent a dozen years on the run after fleeing a conviction for running a Ponzi scheme has been captured in a small community west of Phoenix, the US Marshals Service said on Sunday.

Nelson Grant Hallahan, aged 65, and wife Janet Hallahan, aged 54, were arrested by deputy marshals on Saturday afternoon at a rural home in Tonopah, west of Phoenix.

The agency said it received a tip about their location after they were featured on America's Most Wanted the previous night.

The couple pleaded guilty in Illinois federal court to bank and mail fraud conspiracy charges and money laundering. They didn't show up for their sentencing and have been fugitives ever since.

The Hallahans lived in Peoria, Illinois and targeted family, friends and elderly victims by promising significant returns on investments.

They also defrauded investors by selling interests in a tanning salon they later sold without telling investors. They were actually running a Ponzi scheme, repaying earlier investors with proceeds from new ones.

Arrested without incident

The couple used the money they stole to live a lavish lifestyle, buying yachts, luxury vehicles, designer clothes and jewellery, according to the Marshals Service.

The couple owed nearly $1.2m to investors when they disappeared just days before they were to be sentenced in January 2000.

They were arrested without incident. It's believed they've been in Arizona for about two years.

"The 12-year run from justice of the Hallahans, also known as the 'Mini Madoffs', has come to an end," said US marshal for Arizona David Gonzales in a statement. "Their investment scams involving family, friends, and the elderly, ruined many lives."

According to a profile on the AMW website, Nelson Hallahan was a successful life insurance salesman who began convincing people he could earn outsized returns on investments. Janet Hallahan was his assistant and secretary, and the couple married in 1988.

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