By Jim Donovan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s a scam that went on for years, fleecing victims out of millions of dollars. As another executive involved in the scheme faces sentencing here in Philadelphia, 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan introduces us to one victim who was determined to get justice.
“Something was not right in River City,” says Ingrid Robinson. Just weeks after giving $10,000 to a company called Remington Financial Group, she smelled a rat. A company advertisement promised connections to hundreds of investors that fund business projects. Robinson had plans for a multi-million dollar resort in California. But those “connections” were bogus.
“The first time I saw that rejection letter, I felt like somebody punched me in the stomach,” says Robinson. She exchanged emails with Remington executives demanding an explanation and finally reached one on the phone. But Robinson says what he said to her made her furious. “’Ingrid, you sound like an hysterical woman. We don’t know what we’re missing here, because we’re trying everything we can to fund your deal.’” Robinson says, “I heard that [and said] ‘If you think I’m hysterical now, just wait. I’ll become your worst nightmare.’”
Robinson went online and found hundreds of other victims who paid advance fees of $10,000 to $25,000 and never got financing. She says, “I was talking to victims everywhere, Russia, everywhere, everywhere. Nobody would connect the dots. Nobody wanted to do the work.”
But in fact, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia and the F.B.I. were investigating Remington. Part of the scheme included instructing employees not to “let truth get in the way” when pitching their services.
Six people, including Remington founder Andrew Bogdanoff, pleaded guilty to bilking 1,900 victims out of $26 million in advance fees. A seventh, executive Matthew McManus, was the only one to go to trial and was convicted earlier this year.
McManus, who ran Remington’s Philadelphia office, lives in a million-dollar home in Montgomery County. When CBS 3 rang the bell, people were home, but no one would come to the door. McManus is scheduled to be sentenced next Tuesday in federal court. He faces up to 85 years in prison.
As for Robinson, she’s not done yet. She’s pushing Congress to go after brokers who get fees for leading victims to bogus investment companies. She says, “Literally tens of thousands of commercial brokers all around the world, all of them could do this and there is nothing illegal. But if you cut off the head of the snake, the snake will have a harder time wiggling.”