Elderly couple claims they were misled by investor

Kelly Holleran Nov. 22, 2010, 5:57am

When two elderly Beaumont residents decided to invest $300,000 of their retirement savings, they turned to Crawford Financial Group for help. Seven years later however, the couple claims they have no money left.

Dewey and Suzanne Sterling filed a lawsuit Nov. 12 in Jefferson County District Court against Thurman Crawford and his business, Crawford Wealth Advisors, doing business as Crawford Financial Group.

Dewey Sterling, 86, and Suzanne Sterling, 83, approached Crawford in 2003 for advice on where to invest their retirement savings. During their initial consultation, the Sterlings claim they indicated to Crawford that they wanted to be conservative and protect their principal investment.

According to the complaint, the Sterlings followed Crawford's advice and placed $300,000 in a secured promissory note with Medical Provider Financial Corp. III Series 2. The Sterlings claim that after one year, Medical Provider Financial was to repay the $300,000 plus 8.5 percent interest.

The investment with Medical Provider Financial was a high-risk transaction which resulted in a "substantial" commission for Crawford, the complaint states.

After one year, Medical Provider Financial failed to repay the Sterlings, but assured them their money remained safe, the Sterlings claim.

However, the Sterlings later discovered that they lost the $300,000 they had invested, the suit states.

"At their advanced years and in need of these funds for living expenses and medical expenses in their retirement, Sterlings could not risk, nor afford, any substantial loss of their principal in any single investment," the suit states.

"It was Crawford's responsibility to recommend and choose only investments for Sterlings which were suitable for the Sterlings, protected the loss of principal of their investments, and diversified to avoid all high-risk aggressive investments which were unsuitable for the Sterlings."

The Sterlings allege negligence, negligent misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty and conspiracy against Crawford and Crawford Finanical Group.

They seek compensatory and economic damages of at least $300,000, plus a disgorgement of the profits Crawford received. They also seek pre-judgment interest, costs and other relief the court deems just.

Bruce M. Partain of Wells, Peyton, Greenberg and Hunt in Beaumont will be representing the Sterlings.

Judge Milton Shuffield, 136th District Court, has been assigned to the case.

Case No. D188-791

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