CHICAGO (CBS) — A nephew by marriage offered to help invest his aunt and uncle’s retirement money. Instead, police said he invested in his own Ponzi scheme.
CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported last week on Robert Walberg, the creator of Chartwell Strategies who billed himself as a financial adviser.
He had control of more than $5 million, and on Thursday night, prosecutors claim he helped himself to about $2 million of it – including more than $600,000 entrusted to him by Northwest Suburban Montessori School in Arlington Heights.
And now, Aunt Maria tells De Mar she wants her money from Walberg too.
“I cried,” said Maria Battaglia. “I couldn’t go to work the next day. I spent the whole day in bed crying.”
Battaglia was left destroyed not only emotionally, but financially. She said her retirement fund went down $19,800 in July, $6,000 in August, and $4,950 in September.
Battaglia said Walberg, her nephew through marriage, wiped out her and her husband’s retirement account in four quick transactions.
“We trusted him, and he opened the account for us,” she said.
The account was worth more than $45,000.
“We wanted to be able to relax – go have a drink during the summer; hang out and spend some time together,” Battaglia said.
Prosecutors said Walberg ran a Ponzi scheme spanning from 2014 to this year, allegedly preying on relatives like the Battaglias – along with at least 20 other victims.
At the Northwest Suburban Montessori School, Walberg served as the school board’s treasurer. His kids also attended the school.
“Seeing that this this person embezzled money from our kids is just crushing,” Jordan Sadoff, a parent at the school, said last week.
School leaders said the loss of the reserve money that Walberg is accused of embezzling is putting the school’s future in jeopardy.
In the case of the Battaglias, Walberg put their money in a Fidelity IRA. He had the login information at his fingertips.
“I don’t understand how this can happen,” Battaglia said.
Instead of growing the Battaglias’ retirement money, Walberg is accused of shuffling it into the account of Chartwell Strategies – his own company.
Chartwell Strategies was operating without a state license.
“I want him to see me. I want him to see the pain he has caused,” Battaglia said, “and I want him to feel something.”
Although Walberg was operating without a state license, he didn’t raise any red flags – at least with Fidelity – because he was making transactions under the guise of the Battaglia’s login credentials and not using his own name.
Walberg’s attorney had no comment, citing pending litigation.