Daly City man accused of defrauding hundreds

June 29, 2009 7:21:22 PM PDT
A Daly City man accused of defrauding more than 100 investors, most of them here in the Bay Area, will soon know how much time he'll spend in prison. His investors want the judge to throw the book at him, just like Bernie Maddoff.

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James Trabulse ran San Francisco-based Fahey Fund. Many of Trabulse's investors say he's a miniature Madoff. Their stories are heart wrenching -- especially those who are retired and won't be able to make up their losses.

Trabulse wouldn't talk to ABC7, but some of his investors did.

"It's like someone you trusted and he totally turned the tables on you. Very angry," said investor Doug Peristadt.

Peristadt owns a greeting card business. He believes he was Trabulse's first investor. Peristadt began writing checks to him in 1997. His $60,000 investment reaped huge returns on paper.

"It was around $800,000," said investor Stacey Bruno.

Bruno and her husband began investing with Trabulse in 1999. Their $500,000 investment grew to $2 million -- at least that's what Trabulse said.

"I mean each quarter was between 25 and 40 percent gains, which were ridiculous," said Bruno.

Two years ago, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Trabulse with defrauding more than 100 investors. The court monitor said he raised $20 million and sent them statements that were "largely contrived."

The FBI says he spent much of the money on himself. Trabulse settled with the SEC last year without admitting guilt. He paid a $250,000 fine.

Now he's facing federal mail fraud charges. Trabulse is out on $1 million bail, but he's under house arrest at his home in Daly City.

He is permitted however to exercise at the Olympic Club every afternoon. That angers Peristadt who says the scam was just too good to be true.

"You see those returns, even though it's only on paper, it's hard to be the one that pulls the plug," said Peristadt.

Bruno says losing $500,000 has taken its toll.

"I think a fair trial is all we got. A plea bargain is unacceptable," said Bruno.

But according to his investors, that's what Trabulse is trying to get -- a plea bargain for prison time of only up to 41 months, when the mail fraud charge carries a maximum of 20 years.

Investors are also hoping to recover some of their money when it's all said and done.

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