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Businessman Confesses To $55M Ponzi Scheme: 'I'm Ashamed Of What I've Done'

By Brian Maass

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. (CBS4) - A Greenwood Village businessman has confessed to CBS4 that he has been running a Ponzi scheme for the last seven years, bilking investors of $55 million. For many elderly investors, it was their life savings and retirement funds.

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Dan Rudden (credit: CBS)

"It's not like there's sugar coating. It's a bad deal, as bad as you could ever dream up" said Dan Rudden, in an exclusive interview with CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass. "Once you get into this stuff it's like an addict. Money was like air to me."

Rudden said he plans to turn himself in to law enforcement authorities and face the consequences of what he did.

"Time is up. I couldn't keep up with the pace."

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The married father of six confessed that the business -- Financial Visions -- which he started in 2001, was viable and thriving for years returning investors 12 percent on their principal. The company provided funeral funding services to more than 600 funeral homes and cemeteries across the country.

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But in a letter sent to investors this week, Rudden said the business did well until about 2010 or 2011.

"Because of the good pay history, bringing money into the company was easy," he wrote. "Most people never asked for financial information and if they did, I would put out a financial statement that I fabricated that would show a profit. I had separate bank accounts that the accountants never saw. Financial Visions went from being a traditional business to a Ponzi on or about 2010 or 2011."

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He wrote that in 2010, outstanding loans were about $10 million, but by 2018 the amount had grown to $55 million.

"At least 95 percent of new money went directly into the business to pay the interest to the investors. I lived comfortably, but far from lavish. I probably lived on $300,000 a year. The point is once a Ponzi starts, it's like a freight train out of control. The addiction became money."

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CBS4's Brian Maass interviews Dan Rudden by phone. (credit: CBS)

In a nearly 30-minute interview with CBS4, Rudden said he kept the Ponzi scheme secret from his wife, children -- everyone, until Sunday night when he confided in a minister. He then sent the email out Monday morning.

He said he had been driving around the country for the last three weeks, gathering his thoughts and contemplating suicide or prison. He said of the $55 million, he only has $4,000 left. Ultimately, he said he decided to return to Denver and give himself up. He expects to go to prison. He said he plans to provide bank statements and financial records to investigators.

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Rudden said many of his investors were older and are going to be financially "devastated." But he also said he had many "sophisticated" investors. Although he apologized in his email to investors, he noted, "It's easy to say you're sorry after you've bilked people out of millions."

Scott Whatley, a friend who has known Rudden for 20 years, said he couldn't believe the email and what had happened.

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Scott Whatley (credit: CBS)

"Of all the people, this would be the person I would never believe wrote what I just read. Unbelievable. Shocking," said Whatley.

He called Rudden sincere and trustworthy. Whatley said he feels terrible for Rudden and the Ponzi scheme victims.

In his email, Rudden wrote to investors,"Now the time of reckoning has arrived. There is no money for investors... no one ran off with the money. It was all me. My crimes are horrendous. The evil results from the Financial Visions crimes will be devastating and long lasting for anyone who knew me. The betrayals will be considered some of the greatest ever."

Rudden closed the interview by saying, "It's in Gods hands at this point. It's really whatever the plan is. I'm going to surrender and do the best I can."

CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass has been with the station more than 30 years uncovering waste, fraud and corruption. Follow him on Twitter @Briancbs4.

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