The man prosecutors say was the mastermind behind a Ponzi scheme is in Federal prison, while the thousands of South Florida victims he duped learned on Thursday that at least some of the money they thought they would never see again is coming their way.
Federal prosecutors say George Theodule stole an estimated $68 million from his victims. And on Thursday the bank where he had his accounts--Wells Fargo--agreed in court to pay some of the money back.
Theodule will spend at least the next decade in prison. His victims were primarily members of the Haitian community all over South Florida, and in most cases had given him their life savings.
But today a victory for them as Wells Fargo who the victims said knew Theodule was up to no good--but didn't stop him--agreed to pay them at least a portion of the money that disappeared.
Broward resident Anithe Grigou Saint Jean spent the last seven years anguishing over writing an $80,000 check and giving it to George Theodule.
She took out a second mortgage on her home when she heard about the man presenting himself as a pastor and financial wizard.
"I want to get my money back... because it was a disaster since 2008," Saint Jean said.
Jean Dukenel also lost money, taking $18,000 he had saved for his kids out of Florida's Pre-paid College program and giving it to Theodule.
He said Theodule told him, "...not to be afraid. I invest money for you and every 3 months your money will be doubled."
The victims' lawyers said Theodule and his wife lived a lavish lifestyle spending $20 million on themselves and family members
Federal prosecutors said he formed 100 investment clubs, taking money from victims and raised $30 million that they know of.
Nine weeks ago, Theodule headed off to federal prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud. But it wasn't until Thursday afternoon that his victims' dreams of some restitution became reality.
"I am looking forward to having the first of the victims realize that they're going to be able to get some of their money back and that there is someone out there working for them," said the victims' attorney Barry Blum.
The victims' lawyers filed a legal action against Wells Fargo saying: "...conduct was egregious... such that it is a knowing participant in the ponzi scheme... bank officers purposely ignored these facts and substantially assisted Theodule in maintaining the fraudulent accounts..."
"For me I think the bank knows what's going on... they have to ask where is the money coming from," said Saint Jean.
"I think so. They knew what was going on," Dukenel added. "They should have done something about it."
Just before jurors were going to start deliberating inside this Palm Beach federal courthouse, a settlement was agreed upon.
Wells Fargo told NBC 6, "The parties have reached an amicable agreement that has been approved by the court and we believe is a fair resolution of the parties dispute. Today's victory will aid in covering some of the losses but certainly not all."
"Before I hit 60 I will finish paying my house and I'm done. Now I'm going to pay the second mortgage until I'm 98 years old. So I will be walking like and old grandma before I pay this house, its terrible," said Saint Jean.
It will be weeks before any of this money starts getting to these victims. Two other large banks have also agreed to pay the victims something and their lawyer has collected about $4 million, so the process continues.
If you were victimized by Theodule, you can contact Creative Capital Receivership by calling 888.405.5254 or click here.