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Four face criminal charges after Fort Worth couple loses thousands in bad investment

A Fort Worth couple learned the hard way about a lesson in life for the elderly: Never let anyone in your home.

Not if they're selling something. Not if the promises are grandiose and the trust demanded is so dear, says the husband, who is nearly 80.

The couple say they lost $160,000 last year in a bad investment. They asked not to be named out of fear of their safety. They say they are still waiting for the men who persuaded them to invest their life savings to face trial in McKinney.

About $50,000 of the couple's nest egg came from an insurance policy paid to them when their daughter and son-in-law were slain in their home in the early 1980s. The murders have never been solved.

The husband said, "I never made that kind of money in all those years" he worked. "I was just a saving type person. We never bought anything unless we really needed it. I never bought a new car in my life."

In June, a Collin County grand jury indicted four men, each on counts of engaging in organized crime, theft of more than $200,000 and money laundering, according to the Collin County Sheriff's Department. No trial date has been set, Texas State Securities Board officials said. The board is assisting in the prosecution.

The men -- Casey Ray Vanloon, 35; John David Riddle, 32; Ronnie Gene Nichols Jr., 36; and Ricky Ray Knowles, 36 -- are accused of taking more than $720,000 from 14 people, according the indictment.

Vanloon and Riddle are free on $37,500 bail each, according to Sheriff's Department records. Knowles is free on $75,000 bail.

Nichols remains in jail on $225,000 bail. He is also held on parole violations. He was sentenced to eight years in prison in Rockwall County for retaliation or obstruction and what was at least his third DWI, according to the securities board and the Rockwall County district attorney's office.

None of the men's attorneys responded to requests for comment. It is not clear whether Vanloon has an attorney. He and a family member could not be reached for comment.

In June 2009, the Texas Department of Insurance revoked Vanloon's license to offer life, accident and health insurance over accusations that he "engaged in fraudulent or dishonest acts or practices."

In February 2009, the Fort Worth couple say they signed over a large amount of the money to Vanloon and a man they knew as Gene McKinney. The husband made the check out to a company called Greenway. He later found out from the bank that the name on the check was altered.

The couple thought they were getting an annuity. Instead the check was cashed and their money was tied up in a company called Greenway Energy Partners, "which I never heard of," the Fort Worth man said.

After asking for a refund for several months, he says he realized that everything the men had told him was a lie. The couple also had to struggle to prove to the IRS, which wanted to charge tax and penalties, that they didn't get the money.

After contacting the Texas attorney general's office and the Fort Worth Police Department and feeling they weren't getting results, the couple said they got help from Texas Securities Commissioner Denise Voigt Crawford's office.

Now the couple will subsist on Social Security and two small pensions worth about $360 a month. "We don't want anybody else to go through the hell we've gone through," the husband said. "I should have known better. They just insisted that everything they told me was the truth."

The Collin County district attorney's office did not respond to a request for comment.

Darren Barbee, 817-390-7126

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