The Investigators: Scam Artist to the Elderly - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

The Investigators: Scam Artist to the Elderly

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TYLER (KYTX) -

East Texans went to Richard Hicks looking for safe investments, plus a way to plan for retirement, and ultimately, death. It turns out Hicks has a long history as a scam artist.

It was December of 2012, and inside a Wood County nursing home a husband and a father was saying his goodbyes.

"My dad had two to three weeks to live and so I told him 'My mom's not going to be able to manage things financially and I'm not sure their estate is in a secure enough order that if this drags on they're financially solid enough to live through it,'" Tony Noakes said.

Noakes had to do what all of us will one day face. He asked for a recommendation for someone who could put his parents finances in order and make sure his mom could keep going on what was left.

Noakes went with Richard Hicks and his company Elder Advisory Services.

"He spends an hour with us and explains a lot of things and he explains it very well," Noakes said. "And he goes 'okay let's move forward. It's a $4,200 fee.'"

Noakes said $4,200 dollars for peace of mind seemed alright. But before long Hicks wasn't returning emails and phone calls and by October of 2013 he was in jail.

"It was like an epiphany because I was second-guessing and reliving everything," Noakes said. "My experiences with him up to that point. And all of a sudden it's like 'Oh. Now that makes sense.'"

Hicks wasn't arrested for what happened with families like Noakes'. Instead his charge was fraudulently selling securities.

The Investigators uncovered court documents with a long list of people Hicks scammed. He was selling what was supposed to be a slam dunk--earning 12% a year and backed by quality real estate.

$23,000 invested here, $500,000 invested there: Hicks pulled in $1.7 million for a Utah company called National Note. But according to the Securities and Exchange Commission every dime went down the drain in what turned out to be a ponzi scheme.

Federal Investigators said Hicks used a special questionnaire when people came to Elder Advisory services for end-of-life planning that showed which clients had the spare cash for him to burn. He earned nearly $34,000 dollars in commissions and never told his clients he'd been cut in on the deal. To top it all off, he admits he's never had a license to sell securities.

In an attempt to get Hicks' side of the story The Investigators went to Hicks' home in Tyler.

"Can I help you?," Hicks said as he opened the door.

"We have some questions we'd like to ask you about several people that we've been talking with recently," Field Sutton said. "Margaret Martin, for example. Her family. Bobby Fite. Would you be willing to do an interview with us today?"

"I'm not," Hicks said.

"Why is that?" Sutton asked.

Hicks then shut the door.

In the months after Hicks' arrest Noakes was left with a mess--trying to figure out what, if anything, Hicks had done to help his now widowed mother.

"He did have my parents sign a life estate deed," Noakes said. "My only question is, is it valid since he was not supposed to do that without the oversight of a lawyer."

That's how the other problem surfaced. The Investigators learned Hicks had already raised red flags with state regulators back in 2001. He had been forced into a binding agreement that barred him from preparing powers of attorney, charging for advice on Medicaid eligibility, charging for advice on Social Security, and from advertising those services.

Noakes has a pile of incomplete power of attorney agreements and much more. And he said Hicks was helping to get his mom on Medicaid.

According to those documents Hicks was using a third party attorney, which would have legally gotten around his agreement with the state. But another set of court documents indicate that the attorney in question had never heard of the Noakes family or even seen any of the documents his name was on.

"And that winds up being the lynch-pin of this whole thing, why I think [Hicks] criminally, not only civilly, but criminally defrauded my mom," Noakes said.

In a sworn affidavit Hicks admitted he defrauded and deceived the lawyer and at least 150 clients.

One year later Noakes and his mom still haven't gotten their money back.

"He knew we were grasping for straws," Noakes said. "He knew we needed help. And he took my mom's money and basically left us high and dry."

After that attorney found out his name was used without permission he sued Hicks and Elder Advisory Services. The judge agreed that Hicks falsely used the lawyer's name. Now Hicks owes him nearly $300,000.

In the securities fraud case, Hicks was sentenced to deferred adjudication. If he does nothing wrong for ten years it will be wiped off his record.

Hicks owes another $240,000 dollars in restitution to victims. But he also has numerous Federal tax liens. With no apparent source of income it's not clear how he'll ever pay most of that back.

Hicks' attorney from the recent securities fraud case did not respond to a request for comment from CBS 19.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Hicks was arrested in March. He was booked into the Smith County Jail on October 2, 2013. CBS 19 regrets the error.

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