Lehigh Valley

Northampton Co. man charged in $10 million Ponzi fraud scheme

DA John Morganelli announces case against Richard Freer of Palmer Township

Northampton Co. man charged in $10M Ponzi fraud scheme

EASTON, Pa. - A Northampton County man was allegedly involved in a $10 million Ponzi scheme involving more than 80 victims.

In a news conference Friday morning, District Attorney John Morganelli charged Richard Freer after a grand jury investigation.

Freer, 67, of the 100 block of Tatamy Road in Palmer Township, worked with Lafayette Bank until 1991 as well as a financial services group, Morganelli said.

The prosecutor's office learned of the investigation after an accountant contacted it. One of the accountant's clients had fines on her 2009 tax return. Other victims then started coming forward.

Once Northampton County officials froze Freer's assets, he opened another bank account, Morganelli said.

Most of the cases involved Freer going to meet the victims at their homes, officials said. Freer would tell them he was investing their money in high-interest accounts, but he was actually putting the money into his own account, Morganelli said.

The investigation is continuing, and more victims may come forward.

Freer was committed to the Northampton County Prison on $10 million bail.

Investigators said Freer guaranteed some investors a 5 percent to 11 percent return.

Instead, those investors said they're on the verge of losing their homes or finding out their life savings is gone.  

"I've known about the money since I was 18, and I had it set in my mind how I was going to set up my life," said Samantha Elmer, who met Freer through her mother.

Now 30, Elmer is trying to put the pieces of her life back together after hearing her $100,000 inheritance is gone, all because of the alleged Ponzi scheme run by Freer.

"Granted, I'm upset about what happened to me," said Elmer. "But I heard he had clients at Gracedale."

True, Elmer was not the typical client of Freer. Investigators said most of his 82 victims were between the ages of 55 and 75. A total of $10 million was stolen, they said.

"Most of it was referral," said William Blake, Northampton County assistant district attorney. "One person would invest with him and they were thinking they were legitimate investments with high-yield returns."

"That's what I just don't understand because that would never be something to cross my mind to do to somebody," added Elmer.

The case is still under investigation and Morganelli said his office is going to prosecute Freer to the fullest extent of the law, especially when it comes to jail time.

"As much time as I can get for him," said Morganelli. "I don't want to see him out walking around ever again, and I don't think he will be because I think this is a despicable act and it deserves for him to die in prison. That's my view of this."

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