PHOENIX - “When I think about it, it’s hard to sleep.”
Kathy Wilson is talking about what happened to her dad and her dad’s savings.
“My dad gave him $80,000” she told 3 On Your Side.
She said her dad Melvin Koehler – who was 89 at the time – was talked into investing money with Michael McDowell.
McDowell runs a website called AZ Senior Solutions and apparently markets himself as a financial planner who helps seniors find “peace of mind in their sunset years.”
According to an agreement, signed back in 2005, Melvin Koehler’s money was to be paid back with 5% interest. Kathy Wilson says that never happened. And after her dad passed away, since she was the trustee, she was supposed to get the money.
But things quickly turned ugly.
In a series of emails between Wilson and Michael McDowell, he admitted that he owes the $80,000. One email reads in part, “I think I have finally found a way to free up your money from my real estate.”
In the emails, McDowell outlines a payment plan saying, “In exchange, you agree to not file any ridiculous complaint with the Department of Insurance or the Attorney General.”
Later McDowell wrote, “If you were to file the complaints, you will either drive me into bankruptcy, deeper into depression or maybe even over the edge and into suicide.”
“Only 1 in 14 seniors report crimes,” said Ted Evertsen from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, “They feel foolish, embarrassed, they are also afraid.”
Evertsen, who heads up the Task Force Against Senior Abuse, said reporting this case is a huge step in the right direction for Kathy Wilson.
“Pretty much anyone can call themselves a financial planner,” we asked Evertsen. “Yes and that is extremely dangerous.”
He went on to say, “It’s a fine line between shrewd businessman and crook.”
Kathy Wilson filed legal action and got a judgment against Michael McDowell. Still, no money.
That’s when she called 3 On Your Side.
3 On Your Side tracked McDowell to a possible home address at a mobile home park in Phoenix, but when we got there all we found was dirt on lot where his home was supposed to be.
A neighbor told us the man who lived there “moved out in the dark of the night.”
McDowell’s business address leads to a P.O. Box in Sun City.
We also tried to reach him on the phone, on Facebook and through his website.
Finally we did receive an email from McDowell. It read in part, “I have been dealing with a personal illness and Kathy Wilson is not my top priority at the moment.”
He went on to write, “Frankly I am shocked that she contacted you at all to waste your time and the resources of 3 On Your Side.”
In a second email to 3 On Your Side McDowell wrote, “Even if I wanted to talk to you about this, my voice is gone and I can’t talk. If I try, I start coughing and can’t stop. I have no idea when I will be well enough to talk to you.”
3 On Your Side outlined the questions we wanted McDowell to answer either in person, on the phone or in writing, but 3 On Your Side never heard back.
So where does that leave Kathy Wilson?
She plans to fight. Not just for her money, but because she feels there is more to this story.
As we were getting ready to leave her Phoenix home she told us quietly, “I have no idea how many other people are out there.”
To reach the Task force Against Senior Abuse hotline call 602-542-2124 or 800-352-8431