Texas Radio Host Who Bilked Listeners Out of Millions Is Sentenced to Life
William Neil Gallagher, 80, took at least $23 million from more than 190 people to fuel a Ponzi scheme using their retirement savings, according to court records.,
William Neil Gallagher, a Texas radio host known as the Money Doctor who promoted his business on Christian radio, was sentenced to three life terms for a Ponzi scheme that defrauded more than 190 listeners of at least $23 million.
Mr. Gallagher, 80, targeted older investors, promoting his company, Gallagher Financial Group, in churches and on the radio, according to prosecutors. The company had offices in Dallas and in Hurst, a city about 25 miles west from Dallas in Tarrant County.
Mr. Gallagher, who went by the nickname Doc, pleaded guilty on Aug. 31 to several charges connected to what prosecutors described as a Ponzi scheme that lasted nearly 10 years and bilked older people of their retirement savings. He was sentenced to three life sentences on Monday and an additional 30 years for charges of forgery against the elderly and exploitation of the elderly.
“Doc Gallagher is one of the worst offenders I have seen,” Lori Varnell, chief of the elder financial fraud unit at the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s office, said in a statement. “He ruthlessly stole from his clients who trusted him for almost a decade.”
In March 2020, a Dallas County judge sentenced Mr. Gallagher to 25 years in state prison and ordered him to pay more than $10 million in restitution to the victims of his scheme. He pleaded guilty to the charges in that case.
A lawyer for Mr. Gallagher did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
Anna Tinsley Williams, a spokeswoman for the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s office, said that 192 victims had claimed they lost $38 million when they gave their money to the Gallagher Financial Group.
The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Mr. Gallagher in March 2019 with running a Ponzi scheme, effectively shutting down the operation.
A federal judge appointed Cort Thomas, a lawyer at Brown Fox in Dallas, to recover the losses, which Mr. Thomas estimated at more than $23 million, according to federal court records.
So far, Mr. Thomas has distributed about $3.3 million to the victims, according to the records. He has also sued Salem Media, which owns the radio stations on which Mr. Gallagher hosted his show.
Salem Media, which is based in Irving, Texas, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Mr. Gallagher promoted himself as an experienced investor with a Ph.D. in philosophy from Brown University, offering clients a path to financial stability and a better life through “personal responsibility” and “less government,” with “the help of God.”
“His life’s passion is to help people retire safe, early and happy,” according to a video detailing his biography.
He wrote four books, including “Burning: Passionate Prayers for Men on Fire” and “Jesus Christ, Money Master.”
Mr. Gallagher promised a 5 to 8 percent return on his clients’ investments, according to court records. A vast majority of his clients were people in their 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, and middle-class people who were not looking for enormous returns, but a stable retirement fund, according to court records.
Instead, Mr. Gallagher deposited his investors’ money into a single account that he controlled and then used to make payments to earlier investors, “a classic Ponzi scheme,” according to the lawsuit filed by Mr. Thomas against Salem Media.
According to the S.E.C.,Mr. Gallagher exhausted “virtually all investor funds” and used “significant portions for personal and company expenses and to make Ponzi payments to investors.”
To conceal the scheme, he drew up false account statements that showed fake balances, the S.E.C. said.
In court on Monday, more than a dozen victims of the scheme described being forced to sell their homes, borrow money from their children or take part-time jobs to supplement their Social Security payments.
“I’m afraid my money is going to run out,” Judy Dewitt, one of the victims, said in court, according to a statement released by Tarrant County prosecutors. “It’s a very scary thing.”
Alyssa Lukpat contributed reporting.