PORTLAND -- A 70-year-old Portland woman said she was scammed out of $20,000. She decided to tell her story in the hopes that other seniors will not fall victim to scams or consumer fraud.
LaVonne Wood Treat said that through an investment club and by word of mouth, she put down $20,000 for an investment in a gold-mining operation. The contracts seemed valid, it looked legitimate.
But although LaVonne was promised to be paid in actual gold, she ended up losing her money.
“My participation was $20,000 and zero return,” she said. “I already owned stock in a silver company and it seemed like a compatible investment.”
The man behind the fraud was Harry Proudfoot III. His company, 3 Eagles Research and Development., falsely promised clients huge returns and instead spent investors money on cars, jewelry and vacations.
The State of Oregon says Proudfoot raised more than $2.5 million from nearly 150 investors. And Treat said the pitch was a good one.
“Gold. We were going to be paid in gold,” she said.
The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services levied nearly $1.4 million in fines for the scam.
Harry Proudfoot was ordered to pay $474,000.
His license to sell securities was permanently revoked, and he was ordered to stop selling unregistered securities.
“We're going to go after these fraudsters, these scammers who target seniors, people who have money and are being taken advantage of,” says Ellen Klem of the Oregon Department of Justice.
The Department of Justice is one of more than 20 agencies warning seniors about potential fraud and scams in this year’s "Scam Jam" Tuesday morning from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. when leading consumer advocates and experts in fraud will offer tips to seniors.
More than 850 people have already signed up to learn how to avoid getting ripped off.
“Because when that money is gone its gone and you can't re-earn it, you can’t start your life over again at 80,” says the AARP’s Joyce DeMonnin.