Even little things remind Johnson Ranch resident Ruth Mitchell of the man who defrauded her family out of more than $100,000.
“They used to have the most elaborate Christmas decorations,” Mitchell said of the man. “This year I just put up a tree because I didn’t want an expensive electric bill. What happens to a victim is not just a change in lifestyle. There’s something that reminds them every day.”
Mitchell and her husband Len were among the 28 victims of an $11.5 million fraud — stolen by her husband’s CPA through an investment scheme.
The man was convicted and is now serving an 87-month sentence in federal prison.
Depressed and sick over the loss, Mitchell made a decision.
“It just hit me one day — he’s winning,” she said. “He not only stole our money, he’s stealing my health.”
Now Ruth Mitchell has become a candid voice on white-collar crime, speaking to groups, appearing on television and testifying before the Senate on investment fraud.
“It’s a mission,” she said. “I want people to understand that I don’t care how long you know the person, you must always investigate before you invest. I decided for the rest of my life I was going to work against fraud.”
The Mitchells’ CPA was a friend of the family, a man who lived two doors down from them when they lived in Pennsylvania. He also served as an accountant for Len Mitchell’s architecture firm.
“When I was growing up, you didn’t lock doors,” she said. “Now you can’t trust anyone.”
Mitchell testified before the U.S. Senate’s Special Committee on Aging, spoke for the AARP and did a six-day road trip last year speaking about fraud across Pennsylvania.
She has also been involved with the Pennsylvania Securities Commission and the Arizona Securities Commission, as well as the PBS show MoneyTrack.
The Mitchells say this situation has changed their lives.
“We have so much less to live on now,” said Ruth Mitchell, who spent 40 years as an ice-skating coach. “The thing that’s changed the most is that we used to like to go out to eat and ballroom dance. We can’t do any of that because we just don’t have the money. ”
Mitchell has lived in Johnson Ranch since August and will be speaking to the Johnson Ranch block watch group Wednesday and sharing her story to help others. She is also scheduled to speak at the Gila-Pinal Elder Abuse Conference on March 13.
Johnson Ranch talk on white-collar fraud
When: 7 p.m Wednesday
Where: Walker Butte Elementary, 29697 N. Desert Willow Blvd.
More: For more information, or to arrange to have Ruth Mitchell speak to your group: (480) 659-5804
• Investigate before you invest — doing it afterward may be too late.
• Make sure you receive accurate, understandable account statements regularly.
• Get information about commissions, extraneous charges, transaction fees and penalties.
• Request and receive information from a firm about the work history and background of the person handling your account, as well as information about the firm itself.
• Verify investor registrations by calling the Arizona Corporation Commission at (602) 542-0662 or visiting www.azinvestor.gov
SOURCE: The Arizona Corporation Commission