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Nelson and Janet Hallahan, Ponzi scheme fugitives know as the "Mini Madoffs," arrested in Arizona

This combo made from undated photos provided by the U.S. Marshal's service shows Janet Hallahan, left, and her husband, Nelson Grant Hallahan. The Hallahans, who spent a dozen years on the run after fleeing a conviction for running a Ponzi scheme, have been captured in a small community west of Phoenix, the U.S. Marshals Service said Sunday, May 6, 2012. AP Photo/U.S. Marshal's Service

Janet Hallahan, left, and her husband, Nelson Grant Hallahan
AP Photo/U.S. Marshal's Service

(CBS/AP) TONOPAH, Ariz. - U.S. marshals in Arizona say they have arrested a fugitive Illinois couple known as the "Mini Madoffs" who fled 12 years ago after pleading guilty in connection to a Ponzi scheme that targeted their friends, the elderly and even their family members.

Nelson Grant Hallahan, 65, and his wife Janet Hallahan, 54, lived in several states in the Southwest and had used a number of aliases, the Marshals Service said Sunday.

The two were arrested by deputy marshals Saturday afternoon in Tonopah, a desert community 50 miles west of Phoenix. Officials believe they hid in Arizona for the past couple years.

"The 12-year run from justice of the Hallahans, also known as the `Mini Madoffs,' has come to an end," U.S. Marshal for Arizona David Gonzales said in a statement. "Their investment scams involving family, friends, and the elderly, ruined many lives."

The agency said it received a tip about their location after they were featured on "America's Most Wanted" the previous night.

The couple pleaded guilty in Illinois federal court to bank and mail fraud conspiracy charges and money laundering. They didn't show up for their sentencing and began life on the run.

While living in Peoria, Ill., the couple promised their victims significant returns on investments, the Marshal Service said. They were actually running a Ponzi scheme, repaying earlier investors with proceeds from new ones. They also defrauded investors by selling interests in a tanning salon they later sold without telling investors, the statement said.

The Marshal Service said the couple netted millions of dollars from victims. They also maintained a lavish lifestyle by buying yachts, luxury vehicles, designer clothes and jewelry.

According to a profile on the "America's Most Wanted" television show website, Nelson Hallahan was a successful life insurance salesman. Janet Hallahan was his assistant and secretary. The couple married in 1988.

The Hallahans owed nearly $1.2 million to investors when they disappeared just days before they were to be sentenced in January 2000.

Matt Hershey, a supervisory deputy U.S. Marshal, said the Hallahans were living apart and were arrested without incident at separate homes.

  • Crimesider Staff

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