People hoping to help their families scammed by stock broker

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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A large group of investors lost millions of dollars in a scam no one saw coming.

"He convinced them that he was going to make them a ton of money," explained US Postal Inspector Hope Cerda.

"He" is Hector Gallardo, a United States stock broker, who targeted investors in Bolivia.

"This individual went down to Bolivia, you know, wined and dined them basically and told them that everything was guaranteed and they can make money on the stock exchange and they just had to send the money and he would take care of everything for you.  He told them that they could get basically a rate of return of 18% guaranteed," said Cerda.

Three hundred victims sent Gallardo, who was born in Argentina, a little more than $1 million.

"He was very charismatic. He knows the language. He was able to befriend these people," explained Cerda. "They were enticed by the fact that he was from South America and that he had made it in the United States so they figured that he could help them make it."

And the people who invested with Gallardo were not rich.

"All of them are working class people. They don't have a lot of money.  They were looking to better themselves.  They weren't looking to make millions of dollars, they were just looking to help their families out," added Cerda.

Authorities say Gallardo deposited their money into his own bank account.

"He took the money and went on vacations. He had nice cars, he had a beautiful home. He just spent the money anyway he wanted to make his life better," said Cerda.

"Guaranteed rate of return." Those are the four words to listen for and when you hear them, inspectors say run in the other direction.

"If someone is guaranteeing you a rate of return that is much higher than you know to be factual, it most likely is a scam," added Cerda.

Gallardo was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay almost $900,000 in restitution.

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