It turns out the "Money Doctor" didn't dispense much in the way of financial health. Texas radio host William Neil Gallagher—who went by that name and ran the Gallagher Financial Group—was on Monday sentenced to three life sentences for bilking 192 people out of at least $23 million. Prosecutors said the 80-year-old had kept his Ponzi scheme afloat for nearly 10 years by taking money from mostly elderly people who believed it would be invested in a "risk-free" fund that would see 5% to 8% returns, reports the New York Times. What he did in actuality was dump the money into one account and use it to pay off earlier investors in "a classic Ponzi scheme," per the suit filed against him by Cort Thomas.
Thomas is the lawyer appointed by a federal judge to recover the losses after the SEC brought charges against Gallagher in March 2019. The SEC said nearly all the funds were used up, and that Gallagher produced fake account statements displaying false balances to keep the ruse going. Gallagher presented himself as a longtime, savvy investor with a PhD in philosophy who advertised on Christian radio with the line, "see you in church on Sunday," reports CBS News. The Washington Post quotes him as saying in one radio episode, "You’ve got to be sure you totally trust that financial planner you’re working with."
His stated life passion was "to help people retire safe, early and happy." Instead, victims spoke in court on Monday of having forgo retirement, borrow money from their children, and sell their homes to make ends meet. "That man didn’t just mess up a year or two years, he ruined us for the rest of our lives," said victim Susan Pippi, 74, who along with her husband gave Gallagher $600,000; they've gotten just $20,000 back. Gallagher was handed an additional 30-year sentence for charges of forgery against the elderly and exploitation of the elderly. As the head of the Tarrant County District Attorney's Elder Financial Fraud team put it, Gallagher "is one of the worst offenders I have seen." (Read more Ponzi scheme stories.)