Scams can include investments with friends

FRESNO, Calif.

"I was disappointed, I was disillusioned, I was in disbelief. It was like 'no, no this isn't so' these are good people," said Shirley Lee, Fraud Victim. That's what Shirley Lee thought when she invested her retirement savings with lifelong friends.

"The prosecutor's office called and wanted to talk about my investments," said Lee.

Shirley found out her money was gone. She along with 91 other victims had been duped in a $92 million Ponzi scheme. "I never thought in a million years that these people would lie to me, and I think that hurt more than anything -- that I was lied to and I wasn't discerning enough to know I was lied to."

"These people" are James Powell and David Calwell.

"A lot of people invested with these two gentleman because they knew them for a long time in the community and church," said Alejandro Almaguer, U.S. Postal Inspector.

Victims were told their money was being invested in real estate. "Ultimately what happened, some property was purchased, it went into disrepair but never was all the money put into these properties. Instead the money went into bank accounts and Calwell and Powell used them as their piggy banks," said Almaguer.

Authorities say both men spent the money on their families, vacations and elaborate home re-modeling. "Calwell lived in a small farmhouse and poured in hundreds of thousands to renovate the farmhouse. He had an indoor swimming pool, he had a barn with custom made stables for horses."

Shirley Lee was left with one nagging question. "What would make you do that to somebody like this to people who trust you? What was their mind set? I kind of want to know why and hear I'm sorry."

Some advice -- never trust someone just because he or she is a friend. When it comes to investing your money, always do your homework, no matter who you are dealing with.

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