Jul 29, 2014

'Despicable' $10 Million Ponzi Scheme Scammed 82 People, DA Says

Richard Freer, a former Lafayette Ambassador Bank president from Palmer Township, charged with numerous counts of theft.

'Despicable' $10 Million Ponzi Scheme Scammed 82 People, DA Says
A former Lafayette Ambassador Bank president and insurance executive cheated dozens of people out of their savings with a $10 million Ponzi scheme, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli said Friday.

Richard A. Freer, 67, of Palmer Township was charged Friday with 90 counts each of theft by deception and failure to make required disposition of funds, along with 50 counts of forgery and other related charges. The charges were the result of a grand jury investigation.

"This case is one of the most outrageous cases of theft I've seen," Morganelli told reporters at a news conference at the county courthouse. "It's a despicable case. It's a tragedy that lots of people have lost a ton of money because of Mr. Freer."

Freer left the bank in 1991, and went to work for Aviva insurance company. He was still with them through part of the scheme, Morganelli said.

People would invest with Freer, Morganelli said, and that money would go to pay previous investors, or directly into Freer's bank account. 

"He was taking everything he took from his victims into his personal account," said Assistant District Attorney Bill Blake, who oversees grand jury investigations.

The case began with one one victim, who ran into trouble with the IRS due to her investment with Freer, Morganelli said.

She contacted an accountant, who immediately saw problems with the way Freer was operating, Morganelli said. The accountant talked to a lawyer, who brought the matter to the district attorney's office.

As the investigation began, more and more investors came forward.

Morganelli said most of the investments date from 2009, and continued to the summer of 2013, even as police had frozen Freer's bank accounts.

He and Blake say they're still investigating whether Freer's wife Beverly was involved in the scheme, and suspect there could be another $5 million to $6 million unaccounted for, as well as victims they haven't heard from yet.

Freer was arraigned before District Judge Jacqueline Taschner Friday morning, and was sent to county prison in lieu of $10 million bail.

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