Convicted thief charged with fraud after $5 million investment scam
HOUSTON – Allan Cooper is facing 10 counts of wire and mail fraud. He was arrested Tuesday morning and was released on bond later in the day, but had nothing to say to the dozens of people he accused of stealing from.
Cooper, 75, walked out of the federal courthouse on a $50,000 bond. He had no comment.
"Nothing to say to these families who put their trust in you. These people trusted you with their retirement and you have nothing at all to say to them."
Channel 2 Investigates introduced you to Cooper in February. He was running an investment firm the federal government says was promising 11 percent returns. His clients say they lost everything. Many are senior citizens who put the security of their retirement in his hands. Bobbi Tribble was one of Cooper's clients.
"I'm extremely happy that they caught him."
This is not the first time Cooper has faced these accusations. In 1984 he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for taking more than $12 million from investors. Now he's accused of stealing $5 million from more than 50 people.
"I know we'll probably never see any of our money, but if he spends the rest of his life in jail and can't do this to other families, that's what is important to me."
Cooper is not allowed to have any financial dealings while he is out on bond. He asked for a public defender to represent him. He is due back in court on Friday.
Cooper allegedly victimized dozens of Houstonians. A retired school teacher, a business owner and a grieving daughter are part of a group of five people who are out collectively $621,194.95.
"There's probably a lot of us," said Gayla Davis, who invested money with AG Cooper & Associates and Allan Cooper, after her parents invested their retirement savings with them. "We are probably a drop in the bucket here."
"I'm a business owner, and he pulled me in lock, stock and barrel," Mike Delcamp said.
Word of Cooper's "12 percent account" spread mostly word of mouth and friend to friend and through churches.
Maggie Tribble was a retired widowed school teacher when she invested $128,000 in 2004. Tribble received monthly statements showing big gains. No one was the wiser until she needed her money after becoming ill in 2010. Her adult children tried to withdraw the funds for her care. They were still pleading when she died 3 years later.
"She needed full-time care, and she probably could've been in a facility that would've taken much better care of her than we could have at home," said her daughter, Bobbi Tribble.
The same time Bobbi Tribble couldn't access her mom's savings, dozens of others were having the same problem.
"We'll have your payment there as soon as we can. Should be next month," Carol Hopper recalled Cooper's excuses and stall tactics.
When Hopper's monthly checks stopped coming altogether, she had to go back to work.
"I've gone back to teaching. I do substitute teaching, and it's not easy," Hopper told Davis.
The indictment alleges that on many occasions, investors would wire funds from personal accounts directly into Cooper's commercial banking account or would mail or hand deliver their investment checks to Cooper personally. Investors that were using their retirement funds would wire the funds via an intermediary, self-directed IRA custodian to Cooper's commercial bank account, according to the allegations.
Cooper allegedly prepared quarterly statements he mailed to the investors, making them believe their funds were being utilized in legitimate programs and were earning more than 11 percent in returns. The statements contained false and misleading representations concerning the value and performance of AG Cooper & Associates investment programs and returns, according to the indictment. Instead of investing the funds as promised, Cooper allegedly appropriated the money for his own use, including paying his personal expenses, paying employees, paying his credit card bills, paying other investors and transferring funds to other companies controlled by Cooper.
When investors grew suspicious of Cooper, they checked his past and discovered he's a convicted felon sentenced to 20 years in prison in 1984 for taking $12.5 million from investors at a company he called Kingwood Financial Group. An SEC briefing said Cooper paid past investors with money collected from new ones, a Ponzi scheme. Nearly 30 years later, in 2012, a new set of victims filed complaints with the State Securities Board and the FBI.
Cooper continued to work out of a Spring office on Walters Road, collecting cash.
When Davis caught up with him in Beaumont, where a man sued to get his parent's $640,000 after they died, Cooper told her he had no comment.
"We just want to know what you did with everyone's money," Davis said.
"Well, I don't have any comment," Coopers said.
"I think you do need to make a comment, not just about this case, but about the dozens of people in Houston
who -- you took their money. What did you do with it?" Davis asked.
"They're going to get paid," Cooper replied.
"It's been years you've been saying that," Davis said.
"No," Cooper said.
Cooper lost the Jefferson County case. He's ordered to pay the money he owes, but he walked out of the courthouse free to go back to work.
"I just don't understand. How can that go on?" Hopper asked.
When the head of the State Securities Board refused to talk with Channel 2, Davis went to the state investigator who took the complaints against Cooper.
"How long should consumers expect your office to take action when they report something to you?" she asked Trey Smith.
"I do not know. We do not prosecute crimes here," Smith answered.
"He's a certified financial fraud," said U.S. Rep. Ted Poe about Cooper.
Poe was the judge in Cooper's case back in 1984 but said securities cases are time consuming and often don't get the attention they deserve.
"These types of individuals, like Cooper, they know all that," he said. "They know that it's complicated for prosecution. That's why they do this type of criminal activity as opposed to something else."
If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine on each charge.
Before people ever invest any money, they can check an individual or company's license here. If the company doesn't have a license, don't give them money.