Scam Alert: Scammer targeted seniors’ retirement savings

Posted at 5:39 PM, Jan 20, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-20 17:40:07-05

A scammer is targeting seniors, some of them with dementia. He promised he could get more out of their retirement savings then they were currently getting, but he was lining his pockets the whole time.

“We had two victims who had diagnoses of dementia or Alzheimer’s. He knew this at the time he was trying to get them to invest and he still took their money,” says Dennis Cunningham, a U.S. Postal Inspector.

The accused scammer is Steven Gwin and he stole over $1.2 million dollars from more than 50 senior citizens in an investment fraud scheme.

“He would invest them in an IRA that would get them a better return than they were getting from their established IRAs,” says Cunningham.

“He would use bogus documentation, forged documentation, take out all of that money that they worked their lives for to basically live off of for 2 or 3 years,” says Cunningham.

It was all for his own personal use - a Cadillac Escalade - big beautiful home, and other living expenses.

As postal inspectors began tracking the case, Gwin fled to Guatemala, but they caught a break when Gwin tried to travel to Mexico City.

“On that flight was a law enforcement liaison from Mexico who looked at the flight manifest and saw that one of the names had an outstanding arrest warrant,” says Cunningham.

The liaison contacted Mexican authorities.

“Mexico`s policy on individuals flying into the country with active warrants-- they basically send them on a plane back to where they came from,” says Cunningham.

Investigators caught yet another break.

“We got lucky that when Mr. Gwin was flying back to Guatemala from Mexico City he had a layover in Phoenix,” says Cunningham.

U.S. Marshals were in Arizona to meet Gwin. He was quickly arrested and pleaded guilty.

Inspectors say all investors need to do their due diligence.

“Sometimes, it`s just better to make money the old-fashioned way and use a low yielding product and avoid being scammed,” says Cunningham.

Postal inspectors recommend contacting the Better Business Bureau, Federal Trade Commission or your state attorney general to see if there have been any complaints against the individual or company.

As for Gwin, he pleaded guilty to mail fraud and money laundering charges. He is serving a 9-year term in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Gwin to pay more than $1 million dollars in restitution.