Elderly Woman Says She Was Bilked by Motivational Speaker Endorsed by Clinton | Courthouse News Service
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Elderly Woman Says She Was Bilked by Motivational Speaker Endorsed by Clinton

SALINAS, Calif. (CN) - An elderly woman says a motivational speaker who claimed to be "endorsed by celebrities, including former President Bill Clinton, Deepak Chopra, M.D. and Margaret Mead" introduced her to an "asset manager" who extracted $32,000 of her retirement money and waltzed with it.

JoAnn Cannon sued Barbara von Hohenberg, Dermot McAtamney and DLM Asset Management, in Monterey County Court, for elder abuse, fraud, and six other charges.

Cannon's complaint states: "Plaintiff has been a student of the teachings of Dr. Jean Houston ('Houston') for many years. Houston provides teachings in human potential and capacity. Plaintiff has complete confidence in, and relies upon, Houston's honesty and integrity. On her website, Houston is endorsed by celebrities, including Former President Bill Clinton, Deepak Chopra, M.D. and Margaret Mead."

Houston is not a party to this case.

Cannon says she met Hohenberg in January 2007, "as weeklong training conference held in Ashland, Oregon, which was organized by Houston as part of her curriculum. Houston introduced plaintiff, and other Houston students in attendance, to defendant Hohenberg who gave a presentation to the group concerning financial considerations around the world. Hohenberg presented her understanding of the financial world and emphasized at one point to the attendees, the importance of securing Euros in their investment portfolios."

After several telephone conversations, Cannon says, she "began to think of Hohenberg as a professional friend."

"After Hohenberg gained the plaintiff's confidence, Hohenberg then introduced the plaintiff to McAtamney via telephone. Hohenberg represented to the plaintiff that McAtamney was formerly a member of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board. Plaintiff spoke with McAtamney on the telephone and then received correspondence via email from the address Dermotmca@aol.com belonging to McAtamney," the complaint states.

"From that point forward, Hohenberg, McAtamney and DLM engaged in an elaborate intrastate email and telephone scam using bait and switch tactics, which eventually resulted in the plaintiff transferring her retirement funds to the defendants. ...

"Once the defendants persuaded the plaintiff to invest her retirement funds with them, plaintiff was initially told by the defendants that she would receive an interest in the 'upcoming' trading and contract transactions to be paid in the future. This investment structure was then subsequently switched unilaterally by the defendants to a capital investment by plaintiff in DLM as a corporation, with DLM to engage in unspecified trading and contract transactions, and then plaintiff would get paid as an investor in DLM. Finally, plaintiff was ultimately told that the structure of the transaction would be loans to DLM evidenced by promissory notes, which loans would be used by DLM for the trading and contract transactions. Bear in mind, plaintiff was initially baited into the scheme by Hohenberg who sold her on the idea that a good investment plan should include Euros in her retirement portfolio.

"Hohenberg ultimately persuaded the plaintiff to loan money to DLM based on Hohenberg's agreement to personally guarantee the promissory notes, and the return on the plaintiff's investment. ... Hohenberg claimed to be doing this as a favor to the plaintiff because she did not want the plaintiff to miss out on the tremendous investment opportunity to engage in trading and contract actions because they were friends and spiritually aligned. Hohenberg also asked the plaintiff both orally and in writing not to disclose to Houston the financial arrangements between the plaintiff and the defendants because of the 'handsome bonus' that the defendants had promised to pay the plaintiff."

Cannon says she made two loans to DLM totaling $32,000 but "DLM and Hohenberg did not pay plaintiff any of the money due under the terms of the first or second promissory notes, which both required full payment within 180 days. After defaulting on the first and second promissory notes, the defendants voluntarily offered a third promissory note to the plaintiff ... [which] combined the principal balance of the first and second promissory notes."

When Cannon asked why she was not being paid back, Hohenberg and McAtamney came up with a variety of excuses, including the "'nonsensical slowness of the banking network ... [the] need to travel to Geneva in order to transfer funds to U.S. ... [and that the] funds are 'in a fiduciary account in Europe and ready to be accessed,' but there has been 'political upheaval' and 'economic downturn' that resulted in 'unforeseen circumstances,'" according to the complaint.

"Hohenberg eventually tendered only a single payment of $200.00 to the plaintiff on July 6, 2010. There have been no other payments since, nor any legitimate explanations provided to the plaintiff as to why she has not been paid," Cannon says.

She says she has "suffered emotional distress from the repeated failures of the defendants to pay her back her retirement funds ... has become very ill and required extensive medical treatment that continues to this day."

JoAnn Cannon seeks compensatory and punitive damages for fraud, elder abuse, breach of contract, conversion, unjust enrichment and other charges.

She is represented by Effie Anastassiou, of Salinas.

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