For some central Nebraska investors a three-year long ordeal is almost over.
Three years ago this month state and federal authorities began investigating a Grand Island insurance company for fraud.
Ohio-based attorney John Chapman calls the First Americans Insurance Service case the biggest ponzi scheme in Nebraska history.
Chapman says hundreds of victims invested around $140 million, and at least $30 million of that disappeared.
First Americans filed for bankruptcy, and investors have been waiting to see if they could get any money back. Chapman says some of his clients will when their lawsuit against Florida-based company Transamerica Financial Advisors goes to trial later this year.
"There were three securities licensed people working out of Grand Island," said Chapman. "They were all affiliated with this broker dealer Transamerica."
Chapman says Transamerica's branch office in Grand Island and the First Americans office were one in the same. That's why he says his suit targets Transamerica, who he says should have known something was amiss.
"One of the important factors is we have to find a financially responsible entity that failed in its duty to protect Nebraska investors," said Chapman.
A Transamerica spokesperson did not return calls for a comment on Friday.
The trail is set for November in Omaha, and Chapman says the families he represents should have awards within the following month. He says that compensation from bankruptcy proceedings will likely be pennies on the dollar, but he expects to get much more for his clients.
Chapman says anyone thinking about investing should spend time researching the company and be suspicious if it sounds too good to be true. He says ponzi schemes are often perpetrated through affinity fraud - fraud committed by a person that you know or have had business dealings with before. He says securities sellers in Nebraska must be licensed and people can check that the seller is licensed and that the securities are registered through the Department of Banking Division of Securities in Lincoln.
Chapman says his firm still wants to get in touch with anyone who lost money with First Americans. He says people are sometimes embarrassed about financial losses of this degree, but says it's important to try and reclaim the loss.
To contact Chapman:
John S. Chapman & Associates
700 West Saint Clair Ave.
Cleveland, Ohio 44113