FORT WAYNE – A local man faces a slew of felony charges accusing him of bilking nearly 60 local residents out of tens of thousands of dollars in a Ponzi scheme in which he portrayed himself as a "good Christian man."
According to documents filed Thursday in Allen Superior Court, Bradley Collins, 55, of the 7700 block of Wohama Drive, is charged with corrupt business influence, money laundering, selling unregistered securities, being an unregistered broker/dealer of securities and five counts of securities fraud. All the charges are Class C felonies punishable by three to eight years in prison.
This year, Collins was ordered to repay $837,561 to about a dozen victims who filed a pair of lawsuits against him and his brother John "Jack" Collins. Jack Collins was ordered to pay $420,710 to the plaintiffs in the lawsuits. Jack Collins has not been charged criminally.
The two men, though, were affiliated with David McQueen, a Michigan man under a federal fraud indictment, accused of conning nearly $50 million from victims. Federal court documents filed in Michigan accuse McQueen and others of using "religious affinity" to target and attract elderly investors, according to court documents.
McQueen has not been charged locally. But McQueen's name is all over the Allen Superior Court documents compiled by investigators with the Indiana Secretary of State's Securities Division to outline their case against Bradley Collins:
McQueen, a licensed insurance agent in Michigan from 1998 to 2008, founded several investment funds, including the Accelerated Income Group, International Opportunity Consultants and Diversified Global Finance.
Bradley Collins is licensed to sell insurance in Indiana, but like McQueen, has no significant experience or training in finance or investment fund management. Nor had Collins registered to sell securities in Indiana related to McQueen's three investment funds.
But prosecutors allege that between Jan. 1, 2007 and Dec. 31, 2010, Collins acted as a "sales agent" for McQueen and his three investment funds.
He received commissions of 1 percent to 2 percent for each client dollar invested in those unregistered funds.
In various meetings with potential investors, Collins assured them he and McQueen were "good Christian men" and that "God had brought Collins and McQueen together."
He told one man that McQueen once worked for Ronald Reagan.
"Collins often emphasized his Christianity while soliciting the investment even wearing a 'pastor's outfit' to a solicitation meeting," the investigator wrote in court documents.
In one case, Collins promised a 10.25 percent annual return on an investment to a woman who invested $30,000.
Collins told that woman that "being a Christian himself…he…would not affiliate himself with a company that wasn't an honest and moral company," according to criminal court documents.
That woman's husband invested another $30,000 after Collins told him that "he prayed about selling these investments for weeks before he got the 'OK' from God," according to court documents.
At a meeting at the Fort Wayne Marriott on Oct. 22, 2008, Collins convinced investors to "roll-over" their investments from one of the funds to the one of the others, promising them it would "make everybody a lot of money" and again reassuring them that he and McQueen were "good Christian men."
In the federal indictment, McQueen is accused of telling "unwitting investors" that he and his associates were Christians who preferred to deal "with God-fearing, church-going people," and that it was "blessing to be blessing" potential investors with the opportunity to hand over their money, according to court documents.
But bank records showed that most of the money moved back and forth between accounts, with Collins receiving a total of nearly $1.7 million in "commissions" on the investment referrals.
Investigators believe Collins and McQueen engaged in a Ponzi scheme using religious affinity to close the deal with investors. They estimate that Indiana victims of Collins and McQueen have lost more than $30 million.
The civil cases against the Collins brothers are still pending.
In one case, attorneys are wrangling over money Jack Collins gave his father's wife. Attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that money should have gone to satisfy the judgment against him while he contends the money was part of an inheritance and intended for her.