Illinois couple arrested for Ponzi scheme in Arizona


The Ponzi mask, a rubber mask of Bernie Madoff who pleaded guilty in March 2009 to a Ponzi scheme that lasted decades and cost investors tens of billions, hangs on the wall at a costume store in Queenstown, Maryland.


Jim Watson

An Illinois couple who fled after being convicted of running a Ponzi scheme were arrested in Arizona over the weekend, the Associated Press reported.

Twelve years ago, 65-year-old Nelson Grant Hallahan and his 54-year-old wife Janet confessed to scamming their family, friends, and elderly people out of $1.2 million in a Ponzi scheme and a tanning business scheme, said Matt Hershey, supervisory deputy US marshal, United Press International reported

They pleaded guilty in US District Court in Peoria, Illinois in 2000 to bank fraud, money laundering, mail fraud, and conspiracy, and fled the state shortly after, according to UPI.

They were apprehended by officials in Tonopah, a desert community 50 miles west of Phoenix, where deputy marshals believe they had hid for the past two years, the AP reported. 

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"They seemed like pretty decent folk in the community and stuff like that," neighbor Brian Villalobos told the local CBS 5 affiliate.  

The couple, who had several aliases, were caught after they were featured on "America's Most Wanted" and someone called in to tip officials off to their location, according to the Associated Press. 

Teresa Allred told the AP that she and her husband considered the Hallahans friends, and lent the couple $15,000 to buy more tanning beds for their salon in exchange for 10 percent interest. The salon was already closed when the Allreds made their investment. 

"With friends like that, who needs enemies?" Allred, 63, told the AP. 

"The 12-year run from justice of the Hallahans, also known as the 'mini-Madoffs', has come to an end," US Marshal David Gonzales said in a statement, according to UPI. "Their investment scams involving family, friends, and the elderly ruined many lives. Whether stealing with a gun or by a fast talker with an easy smile, the damage to the victim is serious and irreparable."

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