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Officials warn seniors they are high risk for fraudulent investment opportunities

Published: Friday, Oct. 5 2012 9:05 p.m. MDT

Two state agencies are warning seniors to watch out for investment pitches tempting consumers to look beyond Wall Street for profits.

Katie Greene/Bellingham Herald/MCT

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SALT LAKE CITY — Two state agencies are warning seniors to watch out for investment pitches tempting consumers to look beyond Wall Street for profits.

The Utah Division of Securities and the Utah Department of Commerce released a Top Ten list of Investor Threats to educate consumers about investment fraud and offered cautionary tales of people who found themselves on the wrong side of investment scams.

Kay, 65, was a victim of securities fraud in the summer of 2007. She agreed to tell her story on condition her full name not be used.

She said her neighbor, Tyler Archuleta, approached her and asked if she wanted help landscaping her yard. After accepting Archuleta’s help, she rode with Archuleta to Kearns to rent landscaping equipment. During the trip, she heard Archuleta speak on his cell phone with someone about his trucking business.

Archuleta told her that he had been a long haul trucker, but now had employees working for him and a fleet of 250 semi-trucks held by the company he co-owned with his wife Danielle.

A few days later, Kay went to Archuleta’s home to learn more about his business and to inquire about doing business with the couple’s firm or buying shares in the business.

Kay said she was told that for $300,000 she could buy a semi-truck and two trailers, but she would also need to pay to hire a driver, pay $2,000 a month for insurance and for the Archuletas to schedule deliveries, and that the semi-truck would generate about $600 per day. She said she was also told that if she did not like that deal, she could pay the Archuletas $300,000 instead and they would pay her $30,000 a month for 12 months with 20 percent interest for a total of $360,000.

Kay eventually decided to invest $300,000. She signed a contract with the Archuletas that said, among other things, that Archuleta Trucking, LLC would liquidate company assets to repay her if there was a problem that left the company unable to return her promised investment.

Shortly after she invested, Kay said she saw Archuleta talking to their neighbor and went over to inquire if the neighbor also “gave money” to invest in the business. She said Archuleta ignored her question in front of the neighbor and later told her not to tell the neighbor about the investment.

From September 2007 until March 2008 Archuleta paid Kay a total of $95,000 — leaving her $265,000 short of her promised principal and interest.

The company was not licensed to receive the investments and the Archulettas were charged with securities fraud in March, according to the Division of Securities.

Kay said she was devastated and even endured ridicule by some people in her community who thought she was careless for getting involved.

“Don’t do it,” she warned those who might consider investing in risky ventures.

Affinity fraud

Vance Ward, 64, and his wife JoAnn, 60, of Arbon, Idaho said they were victims of securities fraud in 2010. The Wards said they had known Ronald Dean Udy of Brigham City for twenty years, ever since he sold life insurance policies to the Wards’ relatives and subsequently to the Wards.

The Wards and Udy shared the same LDS religion and Udy had been an official in his church.

Ward said that if Udy was living the principals taught by his church then he should be trustworthy, a common assumption by those who suffer from affinity fraud. Ward said that when Udy indicated the investment was safe, the Wards felt they could trust him and decided to invest.

“He always seemed to be on the “up and up,” but apparently wasn’t,” Ward said.

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