JACKSONVILLE (CBSMiami) – A $120 million dollar lawsuit has been filed against the United States of America by current and former federal government workers and their closest friends.
The lawsuit alleges that the people got roped into investing with a government contracted financial adviser who turned out to be a Ponzi schemer. The suit was filed earlier this year.READ MORE: Celtics run past Heat 93-80, move 1 win from NBA Finals
“How much more confident can you get than the government, right?” said Debbie Sourini. She and her husband Jim were completely comfortable putting their money with Kenneth Wayne McLeod, a legitimate financial advisor, or so they thought.
Sourini told CBS4’s Cynthia Demos that they got a sizeable inheritance from her parents and cashed in the their 401-K’s. They’d planned to invest, according to the lawsuit, about $1.47 million dollars.
She and her husband thought they’d get a great return and spend their golden years at the beach. “The research we did found he represented the FBI, ICE and the DEA and all these government agencies and doing their retirement accounts and we felt very comfortable,” she told Demos.
Their best friends, who wouldn’t speak with CBS4, were government workers high up in the DEA. They invested with this man who their research showed had the seal of approval by the government.
“There were funds out there at the time getting 8, 9 , 10 percent so it was believable that it’s something we thought was legitimate.”
So, they called McLeod in Jacksonville. He immediately drove to their home in Sarasota.
McLeod, according to Sourini, was, “very confident in himself, very cocky, very sure about the investments he could offer us.”
According to the lawsuit there are 168 people listed in lawsuit. The most, 38 are from Florida. Four of those are from South Florida.
Sourini said it all started for her in 2006. She and her husband saw on paper they were getting a great return that was being reinvested but in 2008 tragedy struck and Jim was diagnosed with cancer. “It was a lot of stress,” said Debbie.READ MORE: South Florida family knows firsthand effects of nationwide baby formula shortage
They told McLeod they needed some of their investment back to pay their medical bills. About a million dollars was returned.
Jim seemed to be getting better but then Debbie said, “We got the email that went out to all the investors which we knew was a lie.”
On June 18th, 2010, McLeod wrote, “”After more than 20-years I have deemed it necessary to terminate the FEBG Fund effective immediately.” FEBG is the Federal Employee Benefits Group which is McLeod’s phone fund. It was being investigated by the SEC.
He went on to write, “I have spent the vast majority of my adult life helping tens of thousands of federal employees become better prepared for their financial future and I am proud of that legacy. Respectfully, Wayne.”
Debbie said he told them, “All of our money was safe and it would be returned to us.” They didn’t believe him and scrambled to get their investment back.
Debbie said the chain of events sent her husband into a downward spiral. His condition worsened by the day.
Another email showed up from McLeod saying, “I’ve been told your account will be closed and funds returned in a reasonable time. I have no further information at this time.”
Debbie wrote back, “Your (e)mail was very vague and of course we are freaking out worried about our money!! Will we get all of our principle back?” There was no response.
Then just three days later on June 22, 2010, McLeod killed himself. The money was gone and even worse, Debbie’s husband passed away shortly after their funds disappeared and now her home is in foreclosure.
“I felt terrible it all happened and we were fooled by a bad person. It still seems like such a bad dream,” said Debbie.MORE NEWS: South Florida woman's bout with COVID included hair loss: 'This isn’t normal shedding'
The lawsuit is still making its way through the court system. The suit is seeking $120 million dollars after $34 million in investments disappeared. Court documents claim the extra money is for stress and anxiety. The FBI, DEA, ICE and other agencies would not comment.