Trish Mehaffey, CR Gazette –
CEDAR RAPIDS – Dwight Miller told his former investment adviser, who was sentenced Monday for defrauding numerous people out of their life savings, that he “literally financially raped” him and his wife.
“Noah, you have lied to us over and over and you have deceived us – you broke our trust,” Miller of Mason City said in a victim impact statement. “You have caused a lot of stress and loss of our hard earned $200,000 for my retirement.
Miller told Noah Aulwes, former owner of Covenant Advisors in Cedar Rapids, that he made him bitter but he was going to forgive him. Miller said he would be judged someday by God and he didn’t want to be “incarcerated in the bondage of bitterness.”
Margaret Matt said she had “scraped and saved” for everything they had, looking forward to retirement but it’s all gone and she had nothing to leave her children and grandchildren.
Martha-Jo Ennis, a retired school teacher, said she had never understood how anyone could fall for a scheme like Aulwes until it happened to her and she lost her life savings and an inheritance.
“I don’t even know if I can provide for myself or my care,” Ennis said. “Now, I have doubt, anxiety, fear and yes, anger. I will never forgive you, Noah. If it was up to me, I would punish you to the fullest extent of the law.”
Five people read victim impact statements during the hearing. Some of the victims on Monday and in a previous hearing said Aulwes preyed on older retired people, using his Christianity to gain their trust.
Aulwes, 55, of Cedar Rapids, pleaded guilty in August to securities fraud, money laundering and first-degree theft. He misappropriated about $200,000 of investors’ funds for his personal benefit and to make “Ponzi-type” payments to other investors and misappropriating about $90,000 of investors’ funds invested in the Philippines. The fraud occurred between March 2007 and May 2010.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Nancy Baumgartner sentenced Aulwes to 10 years in prison on each charge and ran the sentenced concurrently for a total of 10 years to serve. He was also ordered to pay $363,000 in restitution according to the plea agreement.
Aulwes’ former associate, Alan Lucas, attended his sentencing and claimed he was a victim and wanted to give a victim impact statement after all the others addressed the court.
Lucas made his way up to the front of the gallery, which was packed with victims and some supporters for Aulwes, but Baumgartner stopped him and sternly told him he wasn’t considered a victim and advised him not to say anything because he has pending criminal charges.
“Please leave the courtroom now, ” Baumgartner said loudly.
Lucas finally stopped and left before sheriff’s deputies had to escort him out.
According to a recent $1 million civil judgment, Lucas took over control of Convenant Investment Fund and its remaining assets from Aulwes of about $189,000 in May 2010. Lucas also assumed a $60,000 debt owed by Aulwes to the fund but investors had no knowledge of the loan.
Lucas has pending criminal charges of ongoing criminal conduct, first-degree theft and money laundering involving the hedge fund.
Aulwes, tearful at times, read a statement to the court saying the 2008 crash was to blame for the Covenant hedge fund trouble but he admitted he left investors vulnerable and betrayed his clients. He said he had known “real sorrow and loss” because his family and wife have received death threats because of his actions and their suffering has changed him.
Aulwes attorney Tyler Johnston asked for a deferred judgment with no jail time so Aulwes could meet his restitution obligation but Baumgartner said she didn’t think he was remorseful and didn’t know if his tears were real.
“When people were in crisis and need, you cut and ran,” Baumgartner said. “You took their money and used it for yourself.”