(July 08) — FBI agents are supposed to unearth scams, not become victims of them. This time is different.
Some 300 retired and current federal agents — representing the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement — collectively invested tens of millions of dollars of retirement money in what turned out to be a Ponzi scheme allegedly run by a Florida man who committed suicide last month, an attorney in the case said.
The FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission are now investigating and trying to recover funds.
“There are definitely [agents] who have lost their life savings,” Fort Lauderdale attorney Michael Goldberg, who is representing the victims, told AOL News.
The reaction of the agents? “Pretty much what you expect,” Goldberg said. “Shock and anger.”
Behind it all, authorities said, was a self-described retirement investment adviser named Kenneth Wayne McLeod, 48. For years McLeod served as a trusted adviser to federal agents around the country, making free financial projections for retirement and in some cases offering high-yield returns of 8 to 10 percent on certain investments, according to an SEC filing in the case.
On June 22, McLeod was found dead in Jacksonville, Fla., of a gunshot wound.
His Florida-based companies, Federal Employee Benefits Group Inc. and F&S Asset Management Group Inc., appear to have been shut down and all assets frozen, authorities said. Calls to both numbers went unanswered this afternoon and the voice mails were full.
McLeod allegedly mentioned to prospective clients the names of many federal agents he knew, including straitlaced FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, according to the website Gang Land News, which reported on the story today.
“[McLeod] would tell people that Bob Mueller was a friend of his,” a retired FBI agent told Gang Land News. “The guy was a real charmer. He would say that he and Bob were best of friends and that Bob and his wife used to stay at his place all the time. The worst thing about this is that this creep scammed hard-working GS-13s and GS-14s [federal employees].”
Mueller did in fact rent vacation properties in Amelia Island, Fla., for several years, Gang Land News reported. But Michael Kortan, the chief FBI spokesman, said in a statement that even if McLeod had owned one of those properties, Mueller had no idea who he was renting from.
“The director had no personal or professional relationship with Mr. McLeod, nor did he engage in any financial dealings of any kind with him,” Kortan stated.
According to the SEC, McLeod for years put on retirement seminars that federal agencies paid as much as $15,000 for. He offered some investments with such companies as Fidelity, which the FBI said appeared to be safe. But others investments appeared to be fraudulent.
In many instances, he offered high returns — 8 to 10 percent — through bonds.
“The security of the government bonds was a key element of McLeod’s deception but he never purchased any bonds,” the SEC said in a statement on June 25. “Instead, he used the investors’ retirement savings to conduct a Ponzi scheme, to pay himself and to pay for lavish entertainment, including annual trips to the Super Bowl for himself and 40 friends.”
FBI special agent Jeff Westcott of the Jacksonville, Fla., office, which is investigating the matter, told AOL News that McLeod had “an air of credibility.”
The irony and embarrassment of the case are clear to many agents around the country. And at the SEC, the unusual set of circumstances is not lost on officials.
Glenn Gordon, SEC associate regional director for the Miami Regional Office, said, “I am not aware personally of another case where this was the target audience.”
Source: AOL NEWS