A man accused of using his Rockford business to defraud investors out of $20-million takes the stand in his defense. Anthony D'Agostino faces federal fraud changes. Investigators say he was running a ponzi scheme. One of the investors who lost all his retirement sat through D'Agostino testimony waiting for answers.
"I sold a building and put all the money from that in there," says John Crull.
"How much was that?" asks Rebecca Klopf, 13 News reporter.
"$150,000, this was going to be my retirement," says Crull.
Crull is 81 years-old and still working. Crull thought investing in promissory notes in a mortgage company would be similar to putting his money into a bank CD with a slightly better interest rate. He picked Commercial Mortgage and Finance.
On the stand today the former owner Anthony D'Agostino testified he never turned his business into a ponzi scheme. He says when he first bought the company in 1997 it was not profitable but thought he could change it. That never happen. The company went bankrupt in 2008 and never made a profit. But Crull says that's not the impression he got when he met D'Agostino a few months before that happened.
"I says, 'how's things going with the market around here.' 'oh he says since they sent that paper out we are getting all these new investments in here it's doing wonderful."
D'Agostino says he never took money from the company never bought expensive things. He even paid himself just a few thousand dollar more than what some of his employees made $90-thousand a year for being the CEO. But the Illinois Securities Department Chief Inspector says you don't have to do any of those things to run a ponzi scheme. He testified if you use new investor money to pay current ones that's a ponzi scheme and that's what Commercial Mortgage and Finance did.
John Crull says he came to the trial to represent the investors who couldn't. Some have become his friends from their shared financial problems.
"All these old people, old people. I'm old but not that old. All gray, tears running down their eyes and everything. That was their retirement. He took their live away from them," says Crull.
D'Agostino lawyers are just starting his defense. He pleaded not guilty to mail, wire and securities fraud. The trial is supposed to last until at least the end of the week.
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