CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Like others who loaned or invested money into Financial Resources Mortgage, Susan and Al McIlvene did their homework and researched the Meredith company. They decided in 2008 to start lending money through the broker to help people with credit problems buy homes.
Now the couple from Kittery Point is out nearly $850,000 — everything they had. They and others testified Friday before New Hampshire lawmakers, saying they were victimized by the failed mortgage company, which abruptly closed in November and has since been accused of swindling customers out of millions of dollars. The McIlvenes also say the government failed them.
Since November, federal authorities have charged the former president of Financial Resources, Scott Farah, with fraud. They charged him with pooling investor funds to pay other loans, paying returns to other investors, and using investor money to pay personal and company expenses.
State officials are taking some of the blame. Earlier this month, Attorney General Michael Delaney released a report faulting his agency, as well as the Bureau of Securities Regulation and the Banking Department, for not doing a better job of investigating complaints against the company, which date to 2000.
“The state screwed up,” said Al McIlvene, 70, testifying Friday before House and Senate commerce committees holding hearings to assess the state’s ability to protect investors in the future. “Not a little bit — but monumentally. And that has caused us our life’s savings.”
In recent weeks, Delaney, Banking Commissioner Peter Hildreth and former Bureau of Securities Regulation head Mark Connolly — who decided on his own to resign so he could speak more openly about Financial Resources — have testified. Hildreth and Connolly both said their agencies did not have jurisdiction over complaints into the company.
Hildreth, who had recused himself from the case because his brother was an investor, told lawmakers his agency had found numerous violations when it conducted audits of the company through the years, including bad record keeping and misuse of customer’s private information. He said even if Financial Resources’ license were removed, it wouldn’t have prevented the company’s alleged actions.
Investors and creditors frustrated with the lack of progress in getting some of their money back through federal bankruptcy court read letter after letter from people who lost money. Many investors were of retirement age.
“We listened to excessive finger pointing and little or no evidence of team effort,” testified Ken Miller of Amherst, 72. He and his wife, Jeanne, lost several hundred thousand dollars.
Miller said he plans to file a claim against the Attorney General’s office and the Banking Department, saying they failed to take timely action regarding Financial Resources.
“Never before have we felt ‘violated,’ only to learn that our loss could have been avoided had top management level officials in New Hampshire state government performed their jobs,” Miller said. “Several lenders depended on the interest from these invested loans to live on.”
Miller said the hearings will not be complete without the testimony and questioning of Kelly Ayotte, who was attorney general from 2004-2009. Kelly resigned last summer to run for the U.S. Senate. Her campaign has said she has not been asked to testify before the committees.