I-Team

Angry investors pack Ng bankruptcy hearing

Monday, December 05, 2011
, Chief Investigative Reporter
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Angry investors faced off Monday with the man at the center of what could turn out to be the largest securities fraud case in California history. Walter Ng is being investigated by the FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission on fraud and embezzlement allegations that total more than $700 million and involve more than 2,800 investors. It's a case the ABC7 News I-Team has been on top of more for months.

Ng has filed for bankruptcy and this was supposed to be the chance for investors to question him directly and get some answers. It didn't turn out that way.

More than 50 investors who have lost money in the Ng scandal packed the hearing room Monday. They trusted him with their life savings. Ng collected money from investors and made loans to real estate developers. He filed for bankruptcy after his limited partnerships defaulted.

"It was a three-ring circus," said investors' attorney Richard Brown. "What we saw is Walter Ng again taking the 5th Amendment, refusing to answer simple questions which I think the court will ultimately compel him to answer."

The U.S. trustee overseeing the bankruptcy tried to ask Ng whether he filed accurate forms, about his personal assets, and where the investors' money is. But time and again, Ng gave the same answer: "On the advice of my attorney, I assert my privilege against compelled testimony."

Ng is under investigation by the FBI, the SEC and a criminal grand jury.

The trustee allowed one attorney to question Ng's wife, Maribel, even though she's been diagnosed with dementia. She's known to have an extensive jewelry collection, but reported only a single diamond ring in bankruptcy filings.

Brown: ""I'd like to ask Mrs. Ng, though, for the record, do you own a diamond ring?"

Maribel Ng: "I don't--"

Walter Ng: "Either you say yes or no or I don't know."

Maribel Ng: "I don't know."

Trustee: "Are you wearing one now?"

Maribel Ng: "This one."

Trustee: "Is that a diamond ring?"

Maribel Ng: "Guess so."

Trustee: "OK, do you know what a, how a diamond ring looks like?"

Maribel Ng: "Yeah, like this."

Trustee: "OK, she's probably got one on right now."

Then, one by one, investors came to the front of the room and faced the Ngs.

"We're here to learn something about all the money we've lost, and we've lost a lot of money from those two over there. OK?" said Alfred Coelho of New Mexico.

We later asked Coelho about his finger-pointing during the hearing.

"Yeah, I pointed my finger at him many times," he said. "Walter is just the ultimate liar, he doesn't tell anybody the truth."

Coelho flew in from New Mexico for the meeting. He lost $700,000.

Harold Jandebeur lost $115,000, money he was using to hire a full-time caregiver for his wife who suffered from dementia.

"I had to cut the caregiver down to part-time and pretty much take care of my wife myself," said Jandebeur. "She did pass away Nov. 19 last year."

On the way out, Ng, his wife and attorneys refused to give us any answers either.

"It's a travesty that these people can't just come forward  Walter Ng and his family come forward -- and do the right thing which is surrender to the situation, basically tell everybody where their money is, what they did with the business, just come clean." Said Brown.

We also saw Ng's son, Kelly, who was his partner in the family investment firms. He ducked out of the hearing when he saw our cameras.

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Tags:
fraud, crime, lawsuit, oakland, SEC, FBI, i-team, dan noyes
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