NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES
Brett Shipp reports
A growing number of North Texans say their lives have been ruined after entrusting one man to their savings.
Victims say Cliff Robertson first gained their confidence, then ran away with all of their money.
For the past few years, Robertson's regular Saturday radio talk show attracted investors interested in his "buy low, sell high" brand of residential real estate. Robertson billed himself as a "2006 Congressional Businessman of the Year" and invited listeners into a world of financial freedom.
Among those who turned to Robertson was William Hunt of Whitney.
"It sounded pretty good," Hunt said. "This guy will take you, teach you, coach you, provide all the rehab, help you with all the paperwork [and] have all the attorneys."
Hunt, a retired high school coach, wanted a more secure future for his handicapped son and himself. Enticed by Robertson's message, Hunt turned over much of his savings, about $70,000.
In return, Robertson invested in a house and a six-plex in Fort Worth that could bring a solid monthly income.
"We bought stuff sight unseen," Hunt said. "We took Cliff's word for it and trusted this guy."
But the trust soon faded when Hunt later learned the structures were old and crumbling and needed massive repair work.Both were located in a blighted neighborhood and no one has yet seemed interested in buying or renting them.
"Now, also with the drop in housing, I don't know what it's worth," Hunt said. "I have a bank loan for a hair over $100,000."
According to Tarrant County tax records, the building is valued at $89,000. The old house he invested $40,000 in is on the tax rolls for only $15,000.
It turns out the seller making profit was CHMM Services, Robertson's company.But the real estate investor is accused of even more.
A few months ago, Hunt began getting delinquency notices, including a maxed-out $10,000 credit card from Advanta and a maxed-out $100,000 line of credit at Bank of America.
Also, there were phantom purchases on another Master Card for fast food, donuts, Mexican food and tires.
All of the credit lines were registered in Hunt's name, which was listed as doing business as The Champions Group - Cliff Robertson's Champions Group.
Hunt said he never made any of the expenditures nor did he receive any of the money. But none of that matters to Bank of America, which is suing Hunt and holding him accountable.
"And I'm just one," Hunt said. "I think my life's in better shape than some of these other poor folks that we are going to see."
Some of the other "poor folks" he referred to meet on a regular basis in North Dallas to discuss what they said Robertson has done to them.
"We've lost our life savings," said Christy Vickery. "He took everything... he took everything we had - every cent, every penny."
"My life has been ruined because of this, totally destroyed," said Ken Eakin, another former investor.
The complaints come from just one small group of alleged victims who are discovering the commonality of their despair.
At first, Robertson told News 8 he was eager to tell his side of the story. But after weeks of putting us off, News 8 caught up with him at his house.
"There's a lot more to it," Robertson said. When asked to elaborate, Robertson once again declined.
According to the FBI, Robertson will have to answer to the allegations.
"You've got a one-man wrecking crew here that is crossing the board on all types of criminal violations - whether it be identity theft, mortgage fraud, investment fraud, Ponzi schemes," said Michael Anderson, assistant special agent in charge at the Dallas office of the FBI. "Our response to that is he needs to be stopped."
Claiming identity theft, Hunt has filed a complaint against Robertson with the Texas Attorney General.
At least one other alleged victim has filed suit against Robertson claiming deception and fraud.
Robertson has offered no explanation or answers to News 8 about the allegations; but at last check, he was still recruiting investors into his world of "financial freedom."