Q: Describe some of the experiences of other victims you interviewed.
A: Some of the younger investors were not dealt as crushing a blow as the older investors. One 40-year-old investor lost $200,000, but he has time to build up savings again. Another 65-year-old lost $16 million and one family with five different members investing in the deal lost $6 million among them.
At the end of the day, the effect depended a lot on what each one of them had in reserve. For some people it was an immediately devastating blow but for others it was more like a slow death. Lending institutions don’t want to help you because you don’t have any capital of your own. For those people whose ability to recover was limited or nonexistent, the best hope was for an early death. There were entirely too many heart attacks and strokes among the victims I contacted.
Many of the people I reached had lost their homes, declared bankruptcy, and had moved in with family members. One family with three adult kids and both parents lost three homes between them. They all ended up moving into the parents’ original home because that was the only paid-up property.
Q: What was the emotional impact of the scam?
A: At first I was extremely angry and that was followed by a deep psychological depression, which eventually destroyed my marriage of 34 years. I was suicidal, but luckily I had enough lucid moments to recognize the danger of my psychological state and to get help.
Suicide is very common after financial fraud has been committed, so I included that in the book so that people understand that suicide creates not only the horrific loss of a loved one but also anger at being abandoned.
The psychological impact for a lot of us was a deep shame and self-recrimination that we should have seen it coming. The thing is, we weren’t investing in something sketchy. The investors here were not overreaching with some get-rich-quick scheme like a promise of a 25 percent return on something in some banana republic.
Q: In what unexpected ways did some of the victims rebuild their lives?
A: The overwhelming majority of the victims were resourceful people to start with, so they took what they had left and backed down their plans. One airline mechanic lost his kids’ college fund and had to sell his home and move into a smaller place with his family. But unfortunately, some people who couldn’t cope at all ended up in a state or county program of some sort, like one 70-year-old who became homeless and didn’t have any family to help.
For me, part of the rebuilding process was to write this book. After six to eight months of therapy I was ready to be more philosophical and look at what I gained instead of what I lost. I gained the ability to be completely fearless and free. You can’t take anything away from me anymore because that’s already been done.
While my book definitely has a violent twist at the end, it isn’t really just a good guy versus a bad guy kind of story. I wanted a variety of people who have been victimized to find a cathartic release from this book and to have something greater going forward. There’s a tremendous amount of love throughout the story.