Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 30, 2013

Local man sentenced to prison for defrauding elderly clients

BY ANGIE JACKSON ajackson@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — GRAND RAPIDS — A former Williamsburg insurance agent will spend five years in prison for defrauding elderly clients of more than $1 million.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Holmes Bell on Wednesday sentenced William Edward Lowder to 60 months in prison, followed by 300 hours community service. Lowder, 58, in January pleaded guilty to wire fraud and filing a false federal income tax return.

He was ordered to pay $1,567,908 in restitution.

Investigators said Lowder, a former licensed insurance agent and annuities producer who had an office on West Front Street in Traverse City, scammed several elderly clients beginning in 2001.

He convinced them to cash out annuity investments and promised to reinvest the proceeds in annuities with higher return rates. Lowder sent clients false account statements and deposited funds to his personal bank account instead.

Honor Loftstrom, 80, lost $45,000. The theft sent her back to work and forced her to move out of her condo. Lowder faced a potential 20-year prison sentence, and Lofstrom said he deserved “a lot more than what he got.”

She feels for another victim who lost $500,000, and whose son contacted authorities in 2011. The Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Department, Internal Revenue Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Michigan Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation each had a role in the investigation.

”He didn’t take as much from me as he did the other people,” Lofstrom said. “It was all I had at the time for savings, and I’m angry about it.”

Lowder used the swindled money “to support his family, business and community interests,” Sean Tilton, assistant federal public defender, wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

Bill and Delight Fagan, 90 and 82, met Lowder at Green House Cafe in Traverse City, where they dined daily for a decade before they moved downstate. Lowder seemed friendly and knowledgeable. He stole $10,000 from them.

”The way he would pray before we eat,” Delight Fagan said. “It was so much worse being robbed by a Christian man, or a man who called himself a Christian, than if we were held up by some crook.”

The Fagans had no reason to be wary of Lowder after he handled a few of their financial matters without issue. They try not to think about the betrayal now.

”It’s all in the past and we can’t do anything about it. It doesn’t do us any good to spend time moaning about it,” Bill Fagan said.

Lowder in a letter to Bell said his shame and guilt the last few years has been “overwhelming.” His wife divorced him, he lost his business and his home, and he is more than $315,000 in debt, Tilton wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

”While there is not a day that goes by that I don’t feel aching pain for the victims, my children and grand-children, and the community of friends, I have resolved to be honest and cooperative on my road to recovery,” Lowder wrote.