William Neil “Doc” Gallagher ran a Ponzi scheme that bilked $32 million off investors over several years. He exploited the elderly and particularly worked his way around churchgoers who believed he was a Christian like them. Many of his victims don’t know how they are going to live. Here are what two of the victims said.
Judy Dewitt: “I’m afraid my money is going to run out. It’s a very scary thing.”
Susan Pippi: “I don’t trust anybody anymore, except for God and my family.”
Known as the “Money Doctor,” Gallagher, who used to be an advisor in Texas as well as a radio personality, and now 80 years old, pleaded guilty to various charges, all emanating from the financial fraud that he operated out of Hurst, Texas. This was on the 31st of August. He had been indicted in August 2019 in Tarrant County.
Judge Elizabeth Beach of the Criminal District Court in Fort Worth, Texas, pronounced the verdict that sent Gallagher to jail for a term equivalent to three lifetimes, and strapped on another 30 years to that, for good measure. This information was shared by Sharen Wilson, the district attorney of Tarrant County.
The sentencing was based on three charges:
- securing the execution of a document by deception for an amount greater than $200,000
- theft of property over $300,000
- misapplication of fiduciary property or property of a financial institution of more than $300,000
The ‘good measure’ additional 30 years was added for:
- one count of forgery against seniors
- two counts of exploitation of seniors
with each accounting for ten years each
History of Gallagher
Gallagher operated as The Gallagher Financial Group that used the medium of Christian radio to advertise. It used the tag line “See you in church on Sunday” as well as books like “Jesus Christ, Money Master” to appeal to churchgoers.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had filed an emergency action against him in 2019 in an effort to shut down, at the time, a Ponzi scheme of an aggregate amount of $19.6 million. The scheme targeted the retirement funds of seniors. The SEC had also charged the two companies through which Gallagher operated the scheme, Gallagher Financial Group and W. Neil Gallagher, Ph.D. Agency Inc..
Pleading guilty to similar charges in Dallas County in 2020, he had been sentenced to prison for 25 years.
There was one early sign of potential trouble brewing, as visible on his FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) BrokerCheck report, during the 15-year period when he was a FINRA registered broker and financial advisor. In 1999, he was fined $25,000 by the Texas State Securities Board for two material misrepresentations to the Securities Commissioner and three business practices that were found to be fraudulent.
At the three-hour court hearing, more than a dozen of the victims came up and testified, with each claiming losses between $50K and $600K, pursuant to their investments in the Gallagher Financial Group. In several cases this caused a severe strain on their resources, with many having to sell homes, borrow from children or take up part-time jobs to supplement what they received from Social Security. This was shared by Wilson, who also mentioned several people talking about the bouts of depression they undergo, apart from losing faith in people.
Calling Gallagher “one of the worst offenders I have seen,” Lori Varnell, chief of the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Elder Financial Fraud team, added, “he ruthlessly stole from his clients who trusted him for almost a decade.”
She and the others who testified Monday asked Judge Beach to give Gallagher life in prison.