It sounded like a legitimate business deal. A five figure fee for writing a grant worth a million dollars. Instead, it was a carefully crafted scheme.
"I can't even tell people I did this because I'm embarrassed," Lisa Cooley said. "I'm embarrassed I allowed myself." Cooley still can't believe she was duped by a couple claiming they could help her secure a grant for her business. "I was new to real estate and we needed some money lenders and they were going to write us a grant to help us out and we thought, let's go for it."
Cooley met the so-called grant writers at conferences and conventions she was attending. For $30,000 dollars they would help Lisa secure a $1 million dollar grant to invest in her real estate business. The truth: they were conmen. Cooley said, "You believe these people, they were real and you see they have documents, with us, letters people I called. I found out later that the people I called as referrals were her daughter.
Cooley and her husband lost half of their retirement savings. "I went against my husband and caused us a lot of problems because I really felt it was the real deal, he didn't want me to do this, I did it, behind his back, I feel horrible. I really thought this was going to turn out."
Frank Schissler is a US Postal Inspector who helped with the case. He explained, "Many of the victims took out loans and took out withdrawals from their savings account and that was all lost."
Postal inspectors say research is the key to any investment. "Try to verify that their expertise is legitimate. If they claim to have credentials in some way, try to check with state agencies that give out those licenses."
Cooley says she still finds herself asking why? "How many people have they done this too? How many people. Devastating."
Alan and Rosa Brown were sentenced to 1 and a half years in prison.