Retirees say they trusted him to handle their money for years and they wound up losing millions

(WXYZ) - This is a story about betrayal, a tale of a man who earned the utmost trust. He did their taxes. He did their books. And then, they say, he booked with their money.

The man we are talking about is accused of making off with five million dollars in clients' money.

He is a certified public accountant– and he is still in business.

The investor who got burned the worst is a name you will recognize, a former head football coach at the University of Michigan.

What makes this story even worse is that the people involved are retirees. Now their nest eggs are gone, and they're hot.

"How can you go to bed at night, and put your head on a pillow and go to sleep knowing that you screwed people out of all this money," said Oliver Kimbler, pounding his fist on the table.

Kimbler lost $24,000 in an investment with the CPA.

"I trusted him.  He had been our CPA for several years," said Vivian Rogers who lost $92,000.

Keith Hesse is furious too.  His parents lost $472,000.

"The problem is we knew Fred, and we trusted Fred, and it got us in trouble," Hesse said.

The Fred he is talking about is  Fred Grant.  He's been a CPA for decades, and you might have heard of him before. His own web site touts how he has advised people during a call-in radio show on WJR.

"Personally, I wish I'd never met the man, said Jerry Rogers, Vivian Roger's husband.

They all met Fred Grant because he did their taxes.  They say that is why he knew when his senior citizen clients had extra money. And in their tax returns he would leave a note saying: "If you are looking for investment opportunities, I am looking for partners in both real estate and business ventures to take advantage of our down economy."

But those who investigated think Grant took advantage of them.

They turned over their retirement funds by the tens of thousands of dollars.

"I thought he was going to invest the money into Fannie Mae and Ford Motor paper," said Oliver.

"Investors thought that they were buying homes that would be rented to executives transferring into Detroit for periods of time.  Thought they would have the houses as collateral," Hesse said.

Investors were later told their money had gone into a duplex that was hardly they type of building that would attract an executive.  They say Grant also claimed their money would be put into a restaurant and a building that was a banquet hall.

Where their money actually went is a mystery. 

"[I] Don't know for sure.  He put some into a resort development that was never completed and repossessed by the bank," Hesse said.

Investors say they were given no securities or deeds.  All Grant gave them is promissory notes from him and his company.  Essentially, that's nothing more than a loan, and a promise to pay it back with interest.

"It went into his pocket and went somewhere.  I don't know. Not an investment with my name on it," said Kimbler.

Investors were getting monthly return checks early on.  But they stopped, and then, the trouble started.

Vivian Rogers said it became one excuse after the other.

"The check's in the mail, or I didn't sign them yet. Or I'm going to get to you," she said

Oliver Nimbler said he heard similar stories from Grant.

"Oh, I'm busy, I ain't got time to talk to you, or something similar to that, you know," recalled Nimbler.

The investors each thought they were alone and out of their money.  Then, they said, the biggest shock of all hit; Fred Grant's attorney called a meeting.

"And all of a sudden we're getting packed into this office like sardines because all these people are showing up and everybody's looking at each other surprised," said Hesse. 

When all was said and done, more than 40 seniors had lost over five million dollars.  At the meeting with Grant's attorney they were handed spread sheets offering them pennies on the dollar.

The investors all learned a tough lesson.

"Well now we've learned that that piece of paper is a nice piece of paper to draw coloring pictures on but it means absolutely nothing.  We can't go to anybody and say ‘I want to collect on this now'. There's nothing there for us to collect," said Hesse, who became chairman of the creditor's committee.

But the investor who lost the most, more than $600,000 is Gary Moeller, former head football coach for the University of Michigan Wolverines.

7 Action News went to Moeller's home to ask some questions about his investments with Grant, but he declined comment.

Investors are wondering whether the list of losers could be even longer than the 41 who turned out for the meeting with Grant's lawyer.

Meanwhile, Grant has been living comfortably in a half-million dollar home in Northville, while retirees like the Rogers continue to get by without their nest eggs.

"Stress for me is very difficult. I have Lupus, and SLE (Systemic lupus erythematosus)is activated by stress. So he's probably cost me some years of my life," Vivian Rogers said.

"I don't think I could face him man to man without losing my temper," said Roger's husband Jerry.

The

Rogers have filed complaints with the State of Michigan, the Michigan Association of CPA's and federal investigators.  The only action so far: The FBI seized $50,000 from a bank account in the name of Grant's company last February, a far cry from the five-million dollars lost by investors.

"Some people have lost their life savings.  Some people have lost their homes," said Kimbler.

"I really would like to know the true story. And if it is true that he went in planning on taking these people's money, then yeah, he needs to go to jail," Hesse said.

With all of these seniors losing so much money, 7 Action News Investigator Scott Lewis decided to confront the bean counter  turned investment advisor.

Lewis, holding the spread sheet with the list of losing investors in his hand, confronted Grant as he walked to his car outside of his office in Plymouth. There were questions, but no answers.

"I'd like to talk to you about these 41 people who invested their retirement savings with you and lost their shirts," Lewis said.

Grant brushed him off and kept walking.  As he climbed into his pickup truck Lewis was able to fire off a couple of questions.

"Any idea why the FBI seized one of your bank accounts? They (the investors) want to know how you can sleep at night, Fred.  Do you want to tell them how," Lewis asked.

Grant put his arm over his face and drove off without comment.

Two people sued Grant and one told 7 Action News they settled for an undisclosed amount of money. But a lawsuit is not always a good way out because the case can be drawn out and cost an investor more than it's worth.

For Fred Grant, it's business as usual.

But the feds are on his case, and so are the 7 Action News Investigators.

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