Rip-Off Alert: Gambling addiction turns trusted insurance agent into crook

A trusted insurance agent turns into a crook on his clients because of a gambling addiction. (KSNV)

A trusted insurance agent turns into a crook on his clients because of a gambling addiction.

Victim Barbara Williams is trying to move forward after losing thousands of dollars in savings.

For years, Williams trusted the Phillips family with her investments. They had been reliable.

So she didn't hesitate when Bowron Phillips, a younger member of the family, approached her about new investments.

“I thought I would give him a chance with some IRA monies that my husband and I had,” she said.

Phillips came to the Williams home and said he had new annuity investments to boost their savings. The couple trusted him and signed the papers. Everything seemed fine until Barbara got a visit from authorities at her office in Fort Worth, Texas.

"I was a victim of fraud … that Mr. Bowron Phillips had taken my money when I had asked him to invest it and spent it," she said.

Postal inspectors say Phillips had a gambling problem and went to a casino daily. The papers he was having victims sign allowed him to control and liquidate the investments.

“They felt like they were family to this person,” said U.S. Postal Inspector Mickey Schuetzle. “And so they didn't read everything carefully when they were signing the documents."

“When someone that you know comes into your home and tells you something, you have trust," Williams said. "I wouldn't recommend anybody do that ever again.”

Postal inspectors say Barbara was one of 19 victims who lost more than $1.6 million. Advice for you is simple.

"First and foremost read everything before you sign it,” Schuetzle said. “Know exactly what you are signing; don't just take somebody's word for it."

Williams admits she is learning this lesson the hard way.

"There is not really any way that we can make our money back as old as we are,” she said, “because we are about to start dispersing from our retirement funds and so will a lot of the other victims.”

Phillips pleaded guilty to mail fraud charges and was sentenced to five years in prison. He was also ordered to pay $1.6 million in restitution to victims.

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