Two years after longtime Pahrump developer Hans Seibt filed for bankruptcy with $70 million in debts, a court-appointed trustee has been unable to find any assets to pay back hundreds of investors, many of them seniors who lost their life savings, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
“I think it’s a pretty bleak outlook for the investors to recover their money,” the trustee, Lenard Schwartzer said. “I don’t see any assets coming from the estate to pay them.”
The investments included a proposed RV park in the Pahrump area.
Schwartzer has concluded that Seibt carried out an illegal Ponzi scheme in the failing real estate market that paid earlier investors with money from later investors.
In July, Schwartzer sent letters trying under federal bankruptcy laws to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars from the earlier investors to give something to the later ones who got nothing back.
But he said he abandoned the effort last week after finding that none of the earlier investors got back more than what they had invested with Seibt.
With hope of recovering their investments gone, the only consolation for those who lost money might be that the FBI and Nevada secretary of state’s office are pressing ahead with fraud investigations.
Last month, the FBI mailed a questionnaire to Seibt’s investors seeking details about their dealings with him.
Bill Holland, a bankruptcy court investigator tracking Seibt’s money trail, said that twice in the past month he has given FBI agents access to Seibt’s financial records.
FBI spokesman Joe Dickey confirmed the bureau is investigating Seibt, but he said he is prohibited from commenting further.
Bob Walsh, deputy secretary of state for Southern Nevada, declined to discuss a securities division investigation of Seibt.
Schwartzer said Seibt did not appear to be living a wealthy lifestyle. The developer contended early in the bankruptcy proceedings that he had lost money on his Pahrump properties.
“I didn’t find any indication that money has gone into foreign bank accounts or that he was stashing money away,” Schwartzer said.
But several investors said that they think Seibt, a dual U.S.-German citizen, has hidden assets.
And they said they are incensed that he is spotted driving a BMW and eating at fancy restaurants. Moreover, investors say Seibt, who could not be reached for comment, might be back selling real estate.
“It just galls us to know that he may still be in operation,” said Dorothy Subic, a 78-year-old retired teacher who lost $500,000 invested with Seibt.
Subic said her husband died in March 2009, leaving her alone in the fight to get the couple’s money back.
“The clock is ticking for all of us,” she said. “We don’t know how much longer we have to live.”
Eleanor Barnes, 82, who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars investing with Seibt, added, “I don’t think I’ll be around to see the end of this.”
Luis Rojas, a 70-year-old retired waiter who lost a $52,000 pension fund annuity, said he feels “awful” about being “conned.”
“He’s ruined my life,” Rojas said. “I have no money. I hope they put him in jail for 300 years.”
Jeanne Thielman, 79, said she suffered a big financial hit, having invested $87,000 with Seibt.
“I need things done around the house, but I can’t afford to have them done now,” Thielman said, adding she struggles each day to survive on Social Security. “I think this man belongs in jail.”
The FBI began taking a closer look at Seibt in August 2009 after lawyers for Schwartzer and the Justice Department’s Office of the United States Trustee filed complaints against him in Bankruptcy Court, alleging he had defrauded investors out of millions of dollars through a Ponzi scheme.
The lawyers obtained an order preventing Seibt from discharging his $70 million in debts in bankruptcy court.
The lawyers laid out the case for the FBI in court papers alleging Seibt used a 17-acre luxury RV park he had developed in Pahrump to lure investors into other projects.
He also left his investors with the impression that his development companies were turning a profit, when in fact they weren’t, the court papers said.
Seibt continued accepting money from investors up to the day he consulted bankruptcy attorneys.
“He kept on investing in his RV park and other properties in Pahrump, which turned out to be terrible investments,” Schwartzer said.