Updated: 08/07/2014 7:40 AM
Created: 08/06/2014 7:34 PM KSTP.com
By: Stephen Tellier
Imagine retiring and having your savings wiped out because you trusted someone. Investigators say it happened to many Minnesota retirees because of one financial planner.
Sean Meadows is a financial planner accused of operating a Ponzi scheme. There are potentially 50 victims, and more than $10 million is gone.
Meadows was hit with a 12-count federal indictment on Tuesday, charged with three counts of mail fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, one count of money laundering and one count of transaction involving fraud proceeds.
One of Meadows' alleged victims said she was in shock when she found out in May that her entire retirement savings was gone. It was more than $200,000. On Wednesday, upon hearing her financial planner had been indicted on 12 federal charges, she said she felt relief.
"It's just life-altering and difficult to find a way to move on," said Nancy Gosz, who turned her retirement savings over to Meadows in 2008.
She said the Minneapolis financial planner who ran Meadows Financial Group was a fast-talker who was often short on specifics.
"Convincing us to turn over great sums of money for him to invest in bonds that we now believe were nonexistent," Gosz said.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Minnesota said Meadows promised dozens that their money would be invested, but instead, he paid for personal expenses and made "Ponzi-type payments" to other investors.
"I think the emotional and mental impact of it is just kind of indescribable," Gosz said.
Unfortunately, that terrible toll is not all that unique.
"Since February, when I joined this office, we've had multiple trials, multiple indictments of investment advisors who simply steal their clients money," said U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger.
Luger said investors need to do a little investigating before handing over their money.
"A legitimate investment advisor expects questions and expects you to check them out. Please do so," Luger said. "Ask questions. It's your money -- protect it."
Because you don't want to end up answering questions like the one Gosz was asked a few days ago.
"She said, 'If you could see him go to jail, or you could get your money back, which would you choose?' And I said, 'My money back,'" Gosz said.
Meadows' attorney tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS his client is fully cooperating with the investigation, and that they dispute some of the allegations coming from prosecutors. He also said his client would be in court for his initial appearance on Aug. 20.
Investigators said there are victims in Indiana and Arizona, in addition to Minnesota. The U.S. Attorney's Office is still asking anyone who thinks they may have been victimized to call their office.
According to the indictment, Meadows used the money from investors to buy a car, travel to Las Vegas and elsewhere, gamble in casinos and online and even spent $100,000 at adult entertainment establishments.