"It all appeared to be legitimate:" Suspects target their friends, family members in investment scheme

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The investment opportunity seemed too good to be true, and it was. There were plenty of red flags, but investors didn't see them.

"It all appeared to be legitimate," Robert Hollins, a victim in this case said.

Hollins says one of his friends lured him into a foreign currency investment opportunity that promised generous returns.

"The pitch I got was because it was foreign exchange, they could make money regardless if the dollar went up or down," Hollins said.

The two men running the investment promised returns as high as 20% or 25%, and investors saw that to be true in their monthly reports.

"You get a false sense of security when you are getting monthly statements showing earnings. I should have realized that there were no months with losses. That should have been an absolute red flag," Hollins said.

The problem: The notes, the monthly reports and the investments themselves were all part of a fraudulent scheme.

The victims, 50 of them who lost more than a million dollars, were all friends and family members of the scheme's ringleaders.

"They were not only hit financially, (many of them lost their life savings), but they were also hurt by the fact that they were taken in by someone who meant so much to them," U.S. Postal Inspector Jason Crowe said.

"I defended him with vigor until it finally dawned on me it was a scam. I just couldn`t believe it -- because I trusted him and I trusted what he told me, because he hadn`t given me any reason not to trust him," Hollins said.

"They lost homes, they lost businesses and they lost the opportunity to have the retirement they planned on having," Crowe said.

Postal inspectors say consumers must research all investments.

Hollins already has a new approach.

"I am invested with some big name companies and I personally think it`s a much safer route than dealing with individuals," Hollins said.

Both suspects in this case were charged with conspiring to commit fraud charges, and are serving two to three years in federal prison.