Con man finally busted after running Ponzi schemes in multiple states
05/04/2018 5:26 pm PDT
A smart and good-looking young guy strikes it rich in Texas, only to have his life of wealth and luxury come crashing down.
Justin Spearman had it all, living in the lap of luxury at 26, engaged to the man of his dreams.
Justin had a secret -- a $20 million secret. And if exposed, it could cost him everything -- even his life.
As a teenager Justin Spearman attended one of the finest preparatory schools in Florida. Only a few years out of college, he bragged about striking it rich in the Texas oil boom, and investors couldn't wait to pump their money in.
"He was successful in the oil business as a 'land man.' In other words, his role was to package oil leases together and then sell those packages to 'wildcatters,' who would then drill on the land for oil," said Barry Moullet, a lifelong friend and early investor in Justin's venture. "He took great detail into showing me how he was doing this business, and I also had the perception he was very successful at it."
Before long Justin met real estate agent Cristian Michaels.
"Courted me, whirlwind romance. You meet somebody and all of the sudden they sweep you off your feet," Cristian tells Crime Watch Daily. "Before I knew it, within three to four months he was proposing."
"Black gold" fueled a posh lifestyle in the affluent suburb of Winter Park, Florida.
"Private aircraft, every third week to go out of town," said Cristian. "It went from him having one or two cars to at one point he had nine cars totaling almost two and a half million dollars. Before you know it he's got a Bentley, a Rolls-Royce and a Ferrari. We lived in a house that was two and a half million, on a lease purchase paying ten thousand a month in rent. Wouldn't think twice about dropping a thousand dollars for a bottle of wine at dinner. Life with Justin was definitely a fairytale romance."
Justin's wealth attracted more money from the ranks of close friends, many of them retirees. Even his housekeeper invested her entire life savings. Bank statements and financial reports backed up his astonishing success.
"In fact he even guaranteed the first investment, if it did fail, he would pay me back my initial investment," said Barry Moullet.
"The money was always there," said Cristian. "Money was never an issue. He paid for people's college tuition. He bought our housekeeper a car. He just was such an incredibly generous person."
So what dark secret could Justin possibly be hiding? In the summer of 2014, the first clues began to emerge.
"I began to think something was wrong when some of the initial investments we made started to get delayed," said Barry.
"Checks started to bounce," said Cristian. "Someone who's got a net worth of $20 million is bouncing checks, some things start to seem fishy."
By now investors were on the hook for over four million dollars. They wanted answers. And on the night of October 12, they got them.
Justin Spearman had amassed a fortune in the Texas oil boom. But his investors -- friends who loved him like a son -- had yet to be paid.
"Either the investments were going south, or Heaven forbid, maybe these investments weren't investments after all," said Barry Moullet.
On the night of October 12, they came to his Florida mansion demanding answers.
What they heard would change their lives forever.
"They basically sat him down, got out an iPhone and asked him about 25 questions. 'Is it true that you've had no contact with this primary investor from Texas that you claim to be business partners with?' He says 'That's true.' 'Is it true that there's no oil and gas company? There's no oil and gas leases?' He proceeded for the next 25 questions just to completely admit guilt," said Cristian.
In a Crime Watch Daily exclusive, we have actual cellphone video of Justin's confession.
Justin Spearman: "When we were in the house, I admitted guilt to scheming and scamming several people into fake oil and gas leases in Texas."
The closest Justin Spearman ever came to finding oil was taking his Bentley for a tune-up.
All the bank statements: fake.
All the land deals: fake.
All the money: gone.
"At first we didn't want to believe it, but it became readily apparent as he confessed to really all of us that this thing was a hoax and a fraud," said Barry Moullet.
"Every bit of our existence for a year and a half was false," said Cristian.
He had built a house of cards -- make that a mansion of cards -- off the life savings of his closest friends.
"The interesting thing with a Ponzi scheme is the first time you pay out dividends, people often want to invest more. They trusted him so much they were almost asking to be involved," said Cristian.
"Never, ever did I think that he would potentially commit fraud," said Barry.
"One of the victims asked 'Why would you keep this going so long?' And my birthday had been two weeks earlier. He says 'I just wanted to get through Cristian's birthday and I was going to kill myself,'" said Cristian.
In a stunning act of mercy, his fiancé Cristian and the investors drove spearman to a psychiatric hospital that night -- only to find they'd been duped again.
"His godmother is sitting there with him in the E.R., and she looks over her shoulder and he's on his phone: 'How to get away with a Ponzi scheme.' So even in this broken frame of mind, like, 'I'm going to kill myself, I don't know what to do,' he's calculating. 'What's my next move?'" said Cristian.
Facing a civil suit, Spearman fled to ritzy palm beach where he quickly suckered a new investor for a whopping $450,000.
But now he had a bulldog on his trail: attorney John Brennan.
"One of the most galling things that we learned was that while Justin was in Palm Beach he purchased a BMW and applied for a vanity license plate which said 'Catch Me Release Me,'" said Brennan.
Brennan warned investors to steer clear of Spearman, which put the swindler on the lam. Over the next few months he tried running his scam in Atlanta, then Charlotte, and finally in Texas.
But they don't take kindly to oil frauds in the Lone Star State.
"He must have been a tremendous actor because at the time that he was arrested he was very close to persuading two business people in the oil and gas business to engage in a million-dollar transaction with him that was fraudulent," said Brennan.
"I was just overwhelmed on the day that they arrested him," said Cristian. "I probably cried for about six hours, but it was more just the close of a chapter. It was finally over."
Cristian was cleared of any involvement in his fiancé's financial fraud, but he still feels the sting of emotional betrayal.
"I struggled a long time to understand if it's mental illness or if it truly is just pure evil, and I believe that with Justin it's pure evil," said Cristian.
Spearman pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and was sentenced to 27 months in prison.
"It's embarrassing to sit here, and I would rather not be sitting here, but in my mind it's the right thing to do is to tell people beware, just beware," said Barry.
And this story isn't over for Spearman. After he served time in Texas, he was thrown back in jail, this time in Florida, where sheriff's deputies say he ran a $3.6 million Ponzi scheme. He's currently facing multiple felonies, including grand theft and securities fraud. Spearman has pleaded not guilty.