Couple in Illinois Ponzi scheme caught in Arizona

Associated Press Modified: May 7, 2012 at 3:01 am •  Published: May 7, 2012
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TONOPAH, Ariz. (AP) — Acting on a tip, U.S. marshals in Arizona put an end to an Illinois couple's life on the lam, a dozen years after they fled punishment for running a Ponzi scheme that targeted friends, the elderly, and even family members, authorities said.

As fugitives, Nelson Grant Hallahan, 65, and wife Janet Hallahan, 54, lived in several states in the Southwest and had used a number of aliases, the Marshals Service said Sunday.

The two were arrested by deputy marshals Saturday afternoon in Tonopah, a desert community 50 miles west of Phoenix. Officials believe they hid in Arizona for the past couple years.

"The 12-year run from justice of the Hallahans, also known as the 'Mini Madoffs,' has come to an end," U.S. Marshal for Arizona David Gonzales said in a statement. "Their investment scams involving family, friends, and the elderly, ruined many lives."

The agency said it received a tip about their location after they were featured on "America's Most Wanted" the previous night.

The couple pleaded guilty in Illinois federal court to bank and mail fraud conspiracy charges and money laundering. They didn't show up for their sentencing and began life on the run.

While living in Peoria, Ill., the couple promised their victims significant returns on investments, the Marshal Service said. They were actually running a Ponzi scheme, repaying earlier investors with proceeds from new ones. They also defrauded investors by selling interests in a tanning salon they later sold without telling investors, the statement said.

The Marshal Service said the couple netted millions of dollars from victims, and maintained a lavish lifestyle, buying yachts, luxury vehicles, designer clothes and jewelry.

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