TAMPA (CN) - The host of the Christian radio show "It's God's Money" drained a couple's Individual Retirement Accounts, plus another $75,000, and blew it all in bogus real estate projects, the couple claim in Hillsborough County Court.
Plaintiffs Larry and Lora Jenkins say they were regular listeners of defendant Gary Gauthier's financial talk show, broadcast Saturday mornings on WTBN.
On his show and in pamphlets he personally gave the Jenkins and other investors, Gauthier presented himself as a "good shepherd" who offered financial advice, estate protection, tax advice, and safe and secure investments.
"The Christian overtones of Gauthier's radio program were intended to, and did, induce plaintiffs and other investors with similar Christian beliefs to contact Gauthier and to retain him and rely on him as a financial advisor," the Jenkins say.
In a December 2007 meeting, the Jenkins say, they told Gauthier they wanted a safe investment that would not risk their principal.
Gauthier told them to liquidate their IRAs and to put all the money - $72,600 - into what he said were "safer investments:" real estate developments by an entity called USA Investments; he was a manager of the company, according to the complaint.
The Jenkins say Gauthier promised 50 percent annual return, and said he would not get a dime from it until the development projects were sold.
But Gauthier failed to disclose that his insurance license had been suspended in Florida, and that neither USA Investments nor the investments identified in their account statements "were actual real estate development projects or developers, but rather [were] engaged in the purchase or options to purchase single-unit condominiums," the Jenkins say.
After forking over their entire IRAs, Gauthier used the bogus monthly statements he produced to persuade them to give him another $75,000, the couple says.
They say Gauthier was actually gambling their money in illiquid, high-risk LLCs that had no revenue other than other investors' money, and no ability to pay continuing expenses for the condos they bought, including mortgage payments and maintenance fees.
To make the payments, Gauthier and his co-defendants began assessing fees for "administrating" the accounts - sometimes billing them repeatedly for the same month, the Jenkins say.
In March 2009, Gauthier, accompanied by his son, pastor, attorney and others, asked the Jenkins and others to a meeting in Tampa that began with a group prayer. Then Gauthier told them that USA Investments was being reorganized as Gulf West Investment Properties, and he encouraged them to switch their investments from one entity to another, according to the complaint.
All Gauthier's "projects" were funded entirely with borrowed money and the failure to generate revenue increased the risk that expenses would not be met, that the projects would fail, and that the Jenkins would lose their money, the complaint states.
And that's what happened: all their investments have become virtually worthless, the couple says.
They demand punitive damages for securities violations, fraud, misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, civil theft, conspiracy and negligence.
They are represented by Peter B. King with Wiand Guerra King.
Here are the defendants: Dreslin Financial Services, GLG Magnolia Oaks LLC, Hudson Acres LLC, USA Investments LLC, Waters Edge #1005, Gulf West Investment Properties, Entrust of Tampa Bay LLC, Gary Gauthier, David Dreslin, and Jack Callahan.
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