Quilting Con: Woman Ensnares Friends in Ponzi Scheme - WBAY

Target 2 Consumer Alert

Quilting Con: Woman Ensnares Friends in Ponzi Scheme

Updated:

You could call it a "quilting con."

You may think a quilting group would be one of the last places a con artist would find victims, but it happened to group of trusting ladies.

"Our relationship went from women involved in this quilting group to extremely close friends. Neither of us had sisters," said Katharine O'Keefe, Fraud Victim.  "We very much regarded each other as sisters."

O'Keefe is talking about a woman named Robin Brass who she met in a quilting group.

Over several years, the two women became so close their families vacationed together.

When the economy collapsed in 2008, O'Keefe and her husband decided to invest with Brass and her company called BBR Group.

"In our mind, she was extraordinarily successful," said O'Keefe. "She and her husband had a house that they had built and added onto and it was an absolute show case. They took expensive vacations, they had art work."

Brass claimed to have a "can't lose investment formula" and O'Keefe trusted her, no questions asked.

"There were checks that had bounced," said O'Keefe.  "We accepted what seemed like plausible reasons for that. In retrospect should have been enormous flags to us."

Postal inspectors say BBR was a front for an elaborate ponzi scheme that stole more than $2 million from victims.

"When you think about what this suspect had to go through to gain the trust of all these professional, good people, 'greed' comes to mind," said Brian Feeney, U.S. Postal Inspector. "Unfortunately, it is a powerful motivator.""

Brass' ponzi scheme--like most--only lasted as long as she continued to lure in new investors to pay old investors.

Unfortunately, Katharine O'Keefe and her friends in the quilting group were on the losing end of the pyramid.

"I was devastated. My entire family was devastated. This was a person that we loved dearly and it was inconceivable to us that she had stolen from us and betrayed us."

Robin Brass pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 8 years in prison.

Before you invest or pay for any investment advice, make sure your brokers, investment advisers, and investment adviser representatives have not had disciplinary problems or been in trouble with regulators or other investors. You also should check to see whether they are registered or licensed.

According to the SEC, this is very important, because if you do business with an unregistered securities broker or a firm that later goes out of business, there may be no way for you to recover your money - even if an arbitrator or a court rules in your favor. To research a broker or investment firm, visit the Securities and Exchange Commission:

http://www.sec.gov/investor/brokers.htm

There are a number of non-profit educational and consumer organizations that offer free tools to help investors check financial professionals. For example, AARP offers a Financial Adviser Questionnaire:

http://assets.aarp.org/www.aarp.org_/articles/bulletin/money/financialquestionnaire.pdf

If you believe you are a victim of fraud related to a ponzi scheme or any crime related to the U.S. mail call 1-877-876-2455 or file a complaint at: WWW.USPS.COM/postalinspectors

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