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Local insurance agent sued over alleged role in nationwide ‘$1 billion Ponzi scheme’

Ashley Wyrick, Gangwer Insurance Agency slapped with suit for selling unregistered securities

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Seven senior citizens recently filed a civil suit against a local insurance agent, claiming they collectively lost hundreds of thousands of dollars from their retirement accounts after an agent encouraged them to invest in a nationwide Ponzi scheme.

On March 11, Reba Casler, Richard and Dorothy McCarty, Ted and Janet Miller, and Robert and Kathy Lane filed a civil suit against Ashley Wyrick, an agent with the Russiaville-based office of Gangwer Insurance Agency, claiming they lost large portions of their retirement funds after she encouraged them to purchase unregistered and unlicensed securities. These securities, according to the suit, were a part of the $1 billion nationwide Ponzi scheme through Woodbridge Mortgage Investment Funds. The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed multiple charges in relation to Woodbridge Investment, dubbing the business “a sham almost from inception.”

According to the suit, which also names Gary and Cathryn Gangwer and Gangwer Insurance Agency itself, the individuals filing the suit were each longtime clients of Wyrick’s. Through the course of her work with those filing the suit, it’s alleged that Wyrick “made various misrepresentations to each plaintiff in connection with their purchase of their Woodbridge Investments.”

These included claims that the investments were “very safe,” the principals were guaranteed, investments were protected against loss, available to be withdrawn at any time, well suited for the elderly or those on a fixed income, that Wyrick wouldn’t be compensated for the sales of the investments, that the agent had a license in “retirement planning,” and that she was “competent to give investment advice to her retired clients.” The suit stated the claims by Wyrick were misrepresentations.

According to the suits, it was found that the investments were “extremely risky,” not guaranteed, and “highly liquid.” Also, the suit claimed the principal investments couldn’t be withdrawn readily, weren’t suitable for those investing, and that Wyrick was not licensed to sell securities in Indiana, nor was Gangwer Insurance. It was also claimed that Wyrick “was not educated, trained, and did not have experience in the sale of securities in Indiana” and both Wyrick and Gangwer Insurance earned commissions for the sale of Woodbridge Mortgage Investment Funds securities.

The first of the plaintiffs to invest in Woodbridge Investment, according to the suit, were the McCartys. Richard and Dorothy invested $25,000 of their retirement funds into a Woodbridge Investment at Wyrick’s behest in January 2016. They only received a “small portion of their principal investments” before Woodbridge went into default.

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Similarly, in June 2017, at the urging of Wyrick, Casler invested a “large majority” of her retirement funds in Woodbridge, purchasing two promissory notes. One was for $28,000 and the other for $124,000. Those eventually went into default, with Casler only receiving a “small portion” of the total sum owed to her.

For the Millers, who invested $25,000 of their retirements through Wyrick with a promissory note through Woodbridge, the story was similar with them only receiving a “small portion” of their investment.

Lastly, the Lanes invested $110,000 of their retirement funds into Woodbridge through Wyrick. Kathy invested $84,000, and Robert invested $26,000. They also only received a small portion of their principal investments prior to default.

Each plaintiff, according to the suit, “effectively lost the majority of their investment.”

Multiple counts were alleged in the suit, including three violations of the Indiana Securities Act, financial exploitation of senior consumers, constructive fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and negligence.

Wyrick did not respond to a request for comment.