DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - A 78-year-old Dallas woman and her son have been indicted in Arizona for allegedly defrauding people in 27 states of more than $8 million.
Agnes Clark and her 55-year-old son Barron Thomas face multiple fraud charges for an alleged airplane investment scheme.
One of their alleged victims is an Irving couple who say the alleged scam wiped out more than $300,000 of their retirement savings.
"This was fraud by design," said victim Martha Zeiler.
The Irving couple answered an advertisement in an aircraft trade magazine that sought investors for private airplanes that would be resold at high interest rates by Thomas. The Zeilers said Thomas was high-profile and seemed like a safe investment for their money.
But their lawsuit filed against Thomas last year claims the money was invested in a plane that had a tail number traced to the Arizona desert in the middle of an aircraft junkyard where some even had crash histories.
The Arizona Attorney General announced criminal indictments two weeks ago claiming Thomas and Clark engaged in fraud and failed "to reveal the true condition, value or location of the collateral planes to the investors."
"I think the words of the attorney general in Arizona describe it perfectly that he is an alleged criminal predator," said Ken Zeiler.
No one answered the door at the Far North Dallas home of Thomas's 78-year-old mother who appeared in an Arizona court last week with her son. They are accused of defrauding a total of 91 people nationwide out of more than $8 million.
"Other investors have been warned about this, this was a very large Ponzi scheme," said Ted Lyon, the Zeilers' attorney.
Attorneys representing Thomas and his mother claim in court documents that the Zeilers, who first started investing in 2000, waited too long to file their lawsuit and are seeking its dismissal.
The Zeilers have about as much hope of seeing their lost money again as much they do seeing the plane they invested in lift off the ground.
But the criminal charges do offer some comfort.
"I'm 66-years-old, how many chances to you get to recover from that," said Ken Zeiler, "we're hoping and we're going to persevere in this."
The Zeilers are among 13 alleged victims from Texas.
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