It started as a search for revenge by Amy Weatherford, after shecaught her boss—investment advisor Paul Kruse—sending lewd text messages to her17-year-old daughter. But when she went through his records looking for dirt,she quickly realized there was much more at stake. The business had all theearmarks of a scam, preying largely on retirees.
"You don't rip off retirees of IRAs," Weatherford tells AmericanGreed. "It waslike, oh my God, you poor people, you're never gonna get this back."
She saw money coming in and going out, but no evidence of anyactual investments on customers' behalf. At the same time, Kruse was spendinglavishly on himself—cars, parties, travel—he even paid $5,000 for breastenhancement surgery for a stripper he had taken a liking to. Earlier,Weatherford says she had walked in on Kruse apparently forging customersignatures on account documents.
Weatherford decided she had to take her findings to theauthorities.
"I needed somebody to help me stop this man," she recalls.
That somebody turned out to be Special Agent Byron Thompson, a20-year veteran of the FBI. He says Weatherford's assistance was huge, anddefinitely out of the ordinary.
"Most of the time in a financial case, you're hearing fromsomeone who's been a victim who is coming in to report that they've been avictim of a crime," Thompson says. This time, they had an insider—Kruse'spersonal assistant.
Investigators quickly determined that Weatherford's suspicionswere well founded. Kruse confessed to running a $1 million Ponzi scheme thatThompson says would have grown much larger if Weatherford had not blown thewhistle.
"It was better to us just opportunity-wise, because we had aperson come in very early while the scam was going on, and so we were able tointerrupt it before it grew to be much more in dollar losses and victims," hesays.
But Amy Weatherford would soon learn that blowing the whistle onPaul Kruse was not without peril.
In prison awaiting trial, Kruse tried to hire a hit man to killWeatherford along with two business associates and his older brother, David.Authorities foiled the plot, and Paul Kruse is serving a 30-year sentence at amedium security federal prison in South Carolina.
Today, Amy Weatherford says that even more frightening thanbeing at the top of Paul Kruse's hit list was turning him in in the firstplace.
"That was the scariest part was going to the FBI. I meanmy God," she says. "I'm not a snitch. You know, where I grew up you justdon't do that."