Bay Area investors sue over Ponzi scheme

July 15, 2009 7:59:44 PM PDT
Bay Area investors who say they were picked clean by a Ponzi scheme are going after the man who took their money.

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Roberto Heckscher and his attorney walked in to San Francisco's FBI office three weeks ago. They came in on their own to talk with agents, who were getting complaints from Heckscher's former clients -- 300 of them who say they have lost tens of millions.

They say they are victims of the bookkeeper-turned-money manager and this past week they got their first indication a criminal investigation is underway.

"Well the latest that happened is we have all received a letter from the FBI," former investor Van Obermuller said.

The letter, dated last Thursday, is a three page questionnaire with questions about investors' personal information, investment history and their contact with Heckscher.

In a letter to investors, Heckscher admitted that he gambled away at least some of the money.

"As his letter indicated, he's actually using the money to deal with gambling debts and deal with losses in his own investments," attorney Ara Jabagchourian said. Jabagchourian represents the 300 investors that have filed a class action lawsuit against Heckscher.

"And see if we can at least get a few pennies on the dollar back for these folks," Jabagchourian said.

But Heckscher's attorney told ABC7 there is no money left.

New victims keep showing up at what used to be Heckscher Irving Street office. Obermuller owns the flower shop on the first floor of the same building.

"That's the scary part of being here, is that people who don't know what's going on, they walk in and say, 'Well, where's Roberto?' and we say,' 'Haven't you heard?,'" Obermuller said.

Obermuller says he has had to break the news to half a dozen investors.

"There was one gentleman who came in, I thought he was going to pass out right there, I mean he had no idea, he lost his whole life savings and he didn't have a clue until I told him what was going on," Obermuller said.

Oberuller is keeping the investors updated on the civil suit through e-mails, but it could take a year or longer to sort out any remaining assets.

"I'm hoping to get this thing turned around hopefully within 12 to 18 months," Jabagchourian said.

On the criminal side, the FBI will not say how the case is progressing. Typically, federal cases take a while and in this case the very first questionnaires were just sent out last week.

Late this afternoon, Heckscher's attorney called to say his client is cooperating with the FBI and is prepared to accept responsibility for what he has done.

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