William Neil Gallagher, a Texas radio host known as Money Doctor who promoted his business on Christian radio, was sentenced to three life terms for a Ponzi scheme that swindled more than 190 listeners for at least $ 23 million.
Mr. Gallagher, 80, was targeting older investors and promoting his company, Gallagher Financial Group, in churches and on the radio, according to prosecutors. The company had offices in Dallas and in Hurst, a town about 25 miles west of Dallas in Tarrant County.
Sir. Gallagher, who went by the nickname Doc, pleaded guilty on August 31 to several charges related to what prosecutors described as a Ponzi scheme that lasted nearly 10 years and made older people pay their retirement savings. He was sentenced on Monday to three life sentences and another 30 years for charges of forgery against the elderly and exploitation of the elderly.
“Doc Gallagher is one of the worst offenders I’ve seen,” Lori Varnell, head of the senior economic fraud unit at the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s office, said in a statement. “He ruthlessly stole from his clients, who trusted him for almost a decade.”
In March 2020, a judge in Dallas County sentenced Mr. Gallagher to 25 years in state prison and ordered him to pay more than $ 10 million in compensation to the victims of his scheme. He pleaded guilty to the charges in that case.
A lawyer for Mr. Gallagher did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Anna Tinsley Williams, a spokeswoman for the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s office, said 192 victims had claimed they lost $ 38 million when they gave their money to Gallagher Financial Group.
The Securities and Exchange Commission accused Mr. Gallagher in March 2019 to operate a Ponzi scheme, which effectively shut down operations.
A federal judge appointed Cort Thomas, a lawyer at Brown Fox in Dallas, to recover the losses, which Mr. Thomas estimated at more than $ 23 million, according to federal court records.
So far, Mr. Thomas has distributed about $ 3.3 million to the victims, according to the records. He has also sued Salem Media, which owns the radio stations where Mr. Gallagher hosted his show.
Salem Media, based in Irving, Texas, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Gallagher promoted himself as an experienced investor with a Ph.D. in philosophy from Brown University, which offers customers a path to financial stability and a better life through “personal responsibility” and “less government” with “God’s help.”
“The passion of his life is to help people retire safely, early and happily,” according to a video describing his biography.
He authored four books, including “Burning: Passionate Prayers for Men on Fire” and “Jesus Christ, the Money Master.”
Mr. Gallagher promised a return of 5 to 8 percent of its clients’ investments, according to court records. The vast majority of his clients were people in their 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s and middle class people who were not looking for huge returns but a stable pension fund, according to court records.
Instead, Mr. Gallagher put his investors’ money in a single account, which he controlled and then used to make payments to former investors, “a classic Ponzi scheme,” according to the lawsuit filed by Mr. Gallagher. Thomas vs. Salem Media.
According to the SEC, Mr. Gallagher used “virtually all investor funds” and used “significant parts for personal and corporate expenses and to make Ponzi payments to investors.”
To hide the scheme, he drafted fake bank statements that showed fake balances, the SEC said.
In court Monday, more than a dozen victims of the scheme described being forced to sell their homes, borrow money from their children or take part-time jobs to supplement their social security payments.
“I’m afraid my money’s running out,” said Judy Dewitt, one of the victims, in court, according to a statement released by Tarrant County prosecutors. “It’s a very scary thing.”
Another victim, Susan Pippi, 74, said she and her husband lost all of their $ 600,000 savings to Mr. Gallagher. They found out that this happened around the time her husband, a commercial sandblaster, was about to retire. He continues to work despite nerve damage and collapsed discs.
“That man didn’t just mess around for a year or two, he ruined us for the rest of our lives,” she said in an interview Tuesday.
Ms. Pippi, who lives in Bedford, Texas, said she has only earned about $ 20,000 left over from the lost money she had planned to leave to her children and grandchildren.
“I will never trust anyone but God and my immediate family again,” she said. “He took everything we had.”
Alyssa Lukpat contributed with reporting.