A Trafalgar man who investigators said sold more than $1.5 million in fake investments was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Rudolf “Rudi” Pameijer, 64, told people he was a financial expert and persuaded them to invest with his company, Plan America Inc. The longtime insurance salesman persuaded clients from Johnson and Hendricks counties and Colorado to cash out annuities or pull money out of retirement funds and suffer large penalties in order to invest in his Ponzi scheme, according to the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office.
Unlike some investment scams where people promise investors they will double or triple their money in a short period, Pameijer offered more modest gains. He typically promised returns of 3 to 15 percent, based on the performance of foreign markets, secretary of state spokeswoman Valerie Kroeger said.
Pameijer took advantage of the relationships he had with friends and family to persuade them to invest with him, Kroeger said. In this case, the investment returns he was offering didn’t sound too good to be true, she said.
“Sometimes the people can seem legitimate because they’re not promising 50 percent (returns),” Kroeger said.
Plan America and the investments he offered were never registered with the state. And Pameijer instead used the more than $1.5 million he collected from 24 investors, including several friends and family members, to pay earlier investors and for personal expenses, Kroeger said. Seven of the investors are Johnson County residents, she said.
Pameijer, 6345 S. County Road 125W, pleaded guilty to one charge of securities fraud involving a person over the age of 60 and two other counts of securities fraud. He originally was charged in May 2012 with 11 felony security fraud charges.
Johnson Circuit Judge Mark Loyd sentenced him to 10 years in prison and another eight years on probation. He also was ordered to pay back $1.82 million to the
24 people who invested with him, the release said.
Pameijer had been married for more than 40 years and raised a family. He got involved with Ryan Koester, who was also charged in the case, and ended up hurting relatives and friends, his attorney Bob Hammerle said. Hammerle said the sentence was fair and ended a case that had been emotional for both Pameijer and the victims.
“Those victims are heartsick and they were friends and family,” Hammerle said. “It’s a case that everyone is left in agony.”
Investigators said Koester helped Pameijer sell the investments. Koester, 43, Brownsburg, pleaded guilty to four felony charges and was sentenced in January to two years in prison and 14 years on probation.
The victims are unlikely to recover even a fraction of the money they lost in the scam, so the long prison sentence is the best result they could get, Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper said.
Indiana law requires financial advisers to prove their qualifications and register with the state before selling securities. The investment funds also must be registered with the state before they can be offered to investors.
People who aren’t sure about whether an investment is genuine should call the secretary of state’s office and ask if the adviser and the fund offered are registered, Kroeger said. If it’s not legitimate, the state can begin investigating before more people are bilked out of their money.
“Unfortunately, Pameijer could have been stopped in his tracks. Neither his company nor his products were ever registered with our office. If only one investor would have called my office or checked our online database, his scheme would have crumbled,” Secretary of State Connie Lawson said in a news release.
At any time, the state office might be overseeing 40 to 50 securities and investment fraud cases, which can takes years to resolve, Kroeger said.
The state office is continuing to prosecute another securities fraud case in Johnson County. Investigators said Florida resident Parry Clark and Trafalgar resident Martin McClary gathered $1.7 million for fake investments. McClary, who sold the investments to family, friends and members of his church, was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty in December. Clark’s case is ongoing.