Raymond Olson, 96, told a federal jury about how his wife's family lost close to $13 million.
Something unusual happened Monday in the federal trial of three men accused of helping convicted fraudster Trevor Cook bilk more than $194 million from investors.
Laughter erupted amid the otherwise tragic testimony of a 96-year-old Spring Lake Park man whose wife's family has lost close to $13 million as a result of their relationship to one of the defendants on trial: Plymouth financial adviser Jason "Bo" Beckman.
Raymond Olson entered the Minneapolis courtroom with a cane and took the witness stand with a hearty, "Hi, folks." He spelled his name and underscored that it's spelled with an O. "Don't put an E in there, because I'm not Danish," he quipped. Asked if he was married, he said, "Sixty-one years on June 23rd. I didn't marry until I was 35," Olson said. "I liked the girls, but I liked my freedom."
Olson said his wife, Charlotte, inherited substantial wealth from her father, Arthur W. Quiggle, who had been a major shareholder in the Creamette Co. Quiggle patented a process to dry pasta on conveyor belts, which facilitated mass production. He also bought stock in companies that would grow into major U.S. corporations.
Olson said he and his wife kept separate accounts. He said he didn't personally invest in the foreign currency program Cook ran, but his wife did. They met Beckman in 2003, before he was fired from H&R Block Financial Advisors.
Beckman rose to his feet when Olson was asked to identify him. "Do you recognize him?" Assistant U.S. Attorney David MacLaughlin asked.
"I recognize him by his nose," Olson said.
Beckman, who has said he was duped by Cook and was a victim himself, laughed and covered his nose.
Olson said that Beckman had suggested that he buy two $5 million life insurance policies on himself, which would be sold after two years to investors for a profit. He said he never knew how the premiums would be paid, but assumed that his wife and Beckman would take care of it.
In fact, the policies were paid for with large loans that Beckman arranged on Olson's behalf, according to other witnesses. His loan application at one bank contained a net-worth statement that Olson disavowed and found preposterous. Olson said he and his wife signed many documents for Beckman, some of which they didn't fully understand.
Although Beckman never told him how much he might reap from the insurance, Olson said, "he gave me the impression you could make a lot of money on it."
The indictment says Beckman told the couple that he had tried to sell the policies but that they had no value. In fact, he had sold them for about $3.95 million, the indictment says, and allegedly used $3 million of the proceeds to partially offset a $15 million loss in his currency trading account.
Cash went to Beckman
Olson reviewed a letter to ViaSource Trading Group, a New Jersey company that sold one of his two $5 million policies for $1,975,000 in February 2008, when Beckman was trying to buy into the Minnesota Wild hockey team. The money from the sale of that policy was transferred to an account Beckman controlled.
Olson said he'd never heard of ViaSource.
Asked if his signature was on the letter, Olson said, "It's maybe a little too perfect to be my signature."
Unproven allegations of forgery have dogged Beckman in earlier litigation. A former business associate, Christopher Pettengill, testified last week that he saw Beckman holding two documents to a window and tracing a signature from the copy on the bottom.
MacLaughlin asked Olson how he knew two men he supposedly listed as "close friends" on ViaSource documents.
"I don't recall ever knowing them," he said.
Other witnesses testified that one, Chad Druvenga of Savage, is a broker of life insurance; the other, William Gray, helped prepare documents related to the insurance policies.
Olson's daughter Eva and a cousin, Susan Gorman, are the trustees for the Arthur W. Quiggle Family Trust. Gorman, 48, testified that neither of them had any financial experience when they assumed that role in 2007 and they trusted Beckman because Charlotte Olson spoke well of him. Records indicate that Quiggle heirs lost about $9 million in Cook's scheme.
Gorman said Beckman also got them involved in transactions like stock collars that they didn't understand, and that they didn't know Beckman could do so without their specific approval.
"We lost all the stocks because we didn't get the money back, and now we have tax consequences," she said grimly.
Dan Browning 612-673-4493