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Couple who fled Illinois Ponzi scheme conviction caught in Arizona 12 years later
TONOPAH, Ariz. (AP) ' An Illinois couple who spent a dozen years on the run after fleeing a conviction for running a Ponzi scheme has been captured in a small community west of Phoenix, the U.S. Marshals Service said Sunday.
Nelson Grant Hallahan, 65, and wife Janet Hallahan, 54, were arrested by deputy marshals Saturday afternoon at a rural home in Tonopah, 50 miles west of Phoenix. 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 have been fugitives ever since.
The Hallahans lived in Peoria, Ill., and targeted family, friends and elderly victims by promising significant returns on investments. They also defrauded investors by selling interests in a tanning salon they later sold without telling investors. They were actually running a Ponzi scheme, repaying earlier investors with proceeds from new ones.
The couple used the money they stole to live a lavish lifestyle, buying yachts, luxury vehicles, designer clothes and jewelry, according to the Marshals Service.
The couple owed nearly $1.2 million to investors when they disappeared just days before they were to be sentenced in January 2000.
They were arrested without incident. It's believed they've been in Arizona for about two years.
"The 12-year run from justice of the Hallahans, also known as the "Mini Madoffs", has come to an end, said U.S. marshal for Arizona David Gonzales in a statement. "Their investment scams involving family, friends, and the elderly, ruined many lives."
According to a profile on the AMW website, Nelson Hallahan was a successful life insurance salesman who began convincing people he could earn outsized returns on investments. Janet Hallahan was his assistant and secretary, and the couple married in 1988.