'America's Most Wanted' helps nab Illinois Ponzi fugitives

Nelson and Janet Hallahan were arrested in Arizona after 12 years as fugitives.  Known as the 'Mini Madoffs,' they were convicted in Illinois of stealing $1.2 million.

(AP Photo/U.S. Marshal's Service)
Janet Hallahan, left, and her husband, Nelson Grant Hallahan spent a dozen years on the run after fleeing a conviction for running a Ponzi scheme. They were captured in a small community west of Phoenix, the US Marshals Service said Sunday, May 6, 2012.

Acting on a tip, US marshals in Arizona put an end to an Illinois couple's life on the lam, a dozen years after they fled punishment for running a Ponzi scheme that targeted friends, the elderly, and even family members, authorities said.

As fugitives, Nelson Grant Hallahan, 65, and wife Janet Hallahan, 54, lived in several states in the Southwest and had used a number of aliases, the Marshals Service said Sunday.

The two were arrested by deputy marshals Saturday afternoon in Tonopah, a desert community 50 miles west of Phoenix. Officials believe they hid in Arizona for the past couple years.

RELATED: Five top investment strategies

"The 12-year run from justice of the Hallahans, also known as the 'Mini Madoffs,' has come to an end," US Marshal for Arizona David Gonzales said in a statement. "Their investment scams involving family, friends, and the elderly, ruined many lives."

The agency said it received a tip about their location after they were featured on "America's Most Wanted" the previous night.

The couple pleaded guilty in Illinois federal court to bank and mail fraud conspiracy charges and money laundering. They didn't show up for their sentencing and began life on the run.

While living in Peoria, Ill., the couple promised their victims significant returns on investments, the Marshal Service said. They were actually running a Ponzi scheme, repaying earlier investors with proceeds from new ones. They also defrauded investors by selling interests in a tanning salon they later sold without telling investors, the statement said.

The Marshal Service said the couple netted millions of dollars from victims, and maintained a lavish lifestyle, buying yachts, luxury vehicles, designer clothes and jewelry.

Teresa Allred, 63, said she and her husband went to dinner with the Hallahans several times and had considered them friends.

They gave the Hallahans $15,000 to buy more tanning beds for the salon. Allred, who lives with her husband just outside Peoria in Morton, Ill., said the Hallahans promised them a 10 percent interest rate on the investment.

Allred told The Associated Press Sunday night that they never saw the money again.

"When she (Janet) was borrowing money from us to buy tanning beds, she had already sold the tanning salon," she said.

"With friends like that, who needs enemies?" she said.

According to a profile on the AMW website, Nelson Hallahan was a successful life insurance salesman. Janet Hallahan was his assistant and secretary, and the couple married in 1988.

The Hallahans owed nearly $1.2 million to investors when they disappeared just days before they were to be sentenced in January 2000.

Matt Hershey, a supervisory deputy U.S. Marshal, said the Hallahans were living apart and were arrested without incident at separate homes.

"I'm just glad that they've been found," Allred said. "We may or may not see our money, but at least I feel like there's a little bit of restitution."

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

RELATED: Five top investment strategies

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.