Roberto Heckscher told his clients he could invest their money in short term loans to businesses. He promised returns of anywhere from 6 to 12 percent. Over four decades his clients invested tens of millions of dollars. This week it all came crashing down.
Out in front a bookkeeping office on Irving Street investors kept coming by Friday morning to see for themselves if it was really true.
Delbert Biddle got wind something was wrong about 10 days ago.
"Twelve checks had bounced for the monthly payments, the interest payments, for the 300 investors," investor Delbert Biddle said.
Biddle is one of 300 investors who loaned money to accountant Roberto Heckscher, owner of Irving Bookkeeping and Taxes. In the past week Biddle has discovered his $500,000 is gone.
"I cannot understand why he didn't come to all of us and say, 'Look I've got a problem, lets all work together,' it isn't like the guy, I don't know," Biddle said.
Daniel O'Neill, 77, cannot believe he lost $1 million to a man he has known for half his life.
"Forty years I've known this man, he's been doing my books for 40 years; I've been loaning him money all this time, and this is the most he could get, it was $1 million he got," O'Neill said.
The owner of the flower shop beneath Henkscher's bookkeeping office says investors have been stopping by all week.
"It goes anywhere from $5,000 worth of investment, up more than $2 million, some people even said $3 million per person," Van Obermuller said.
Henkscher's attorney says he did not live an extravagant life style. He owned a modest house in San Mateo and an ice cream store down the street from his bookkeeping business.
"He has told me some of it, I'm looking at the records, I'm not at liberty at the moment to go into that," James Reilly said.
But in a letter left for at least one investor Hecksher wrote, "Let me start by expressing how incredibly sorry I am."
Of his financial difficulties he said, "It started over 20 years ago with some incredibly large losses."
Then he explains, "Gambling then came into my life and some early wins made it seem like it might enable me to pay off all my debts and clean my slate."
Finally he alludes to an attempt on his life saying he has, "delayed his final act repeatedly with the hope that a miracle would somehow save the day."
ABC7: "Did your client attempt a suicide last week?"
Reilly: "He did. He took an overdose of pills fortunately his wife found him in time to have him treated and hospitalized."
Investors say they had heard it was gambling. A number of them have filed complaints with the San Francisco police.
"All of us probably have to do that and if he's dirty he will go to the penitentiary, if he's convicted; if he hasn't done anything criminal then we need to support his family," Biddle said.
There was a lot of support for Heckscher and particularly for his wife of 25 years, who according to the defense attorney had no idea what her husband was doing with his investors money even though she worked in the same office as a book keeper.