4 more charged in alleged Benchmark Capital investment fraud

10:59 AM, May 24, 2013   |    comments
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(WBIR) Four additional people have been charged in connection with an alleged investment fraud scheme that targeted the elderly in Tennessee and North Carolina.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, dozens invested more than $42.6 million in fake annuity investments with Benchmark Capital, Inc. Investigators say investors lost a net total of $18 million.

Three people were arrested and a fourth turned herself Thursday.

Federal agents arrested Brian Murphy, Paulynn Wright, and Donna Rector. The U.S. Attorney says Tiffiny Thompson turned herself in.

Murphy and Thompson pleaded not guilty. Both are charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and money laundering.

Wright and Rector are being arraigned Friday morning. Wright is charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and money laundering. Rector is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The trial date for all four will be set on June 4, 2013.

Since the investigation started, 10News has spoken to several Benchmark investors.

Benchmark investor Kent Burleson, who lives in Maryville, said his life savings are gone, "We're living off my wife's $1,100 a month disability check and around six weeks ago, I took a minimum wage job for extra money."

Burleson told 10News he invested $437,000 with Benchmark through another company.  He said he still can't believe his money is gone.

Police say Charles Chandler, the man who ran Benchmark, killed himself in March of last year. This happened days before the Knoxville and Greeneville offices were raided by federal agencies.

Two women were indicted in July 2012 in connection with the alleged scheme. They pleaded not guilty to the charges.

One of the women's accounting firm, J. Allen & Associates, was listed as a representative of Benchmark in a letter the IRS sent to notify investors of possible fraud.

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