Of the more than 70 investors Christopher Turner lured into backing his Go Go Gorillas dream, Ilene Severance was probably taken for the biggest ride.
The 75-year-old Stanford widow, who won the lottery in 1992, invested or loaned Turner $2.5 million since 2008, and now her home is in foreclosure, according to an affidavit filled by Kentucky State Police Detective Brian Reeder.
Complaints from Severance and other big investors and former employees of Turner’s various Danville enterprises led to Wednesday’s raid by federal and state agents on Go Go Gorillas, Turner’s office and home in search of financial documents and computer files as part of an a multi-million dollar fraud investigation.
Danville native Turner, 48, has not been charged in the investigation. He voluntarily submitted to an interview with agents on Wednesday and was not arrested. The case against Turner will likely be pursued in federal court because some of the alleged fraud occurred using theU.S. mailsystem, said Misty Racimo of the U.S. Postal Inspector’s Office.
According to Reeder’s affidavit, which was used to obtain a search warrant for Turner’s proprieties from Boyle District Judge Jeff Dotson, Turner issued promissory notes and stock certificates to Severance and other investors, even though records from the Kentucky Department of Financial Institutions show Turner was not registered to issue or sell such documents.
“Turner failed to disclose these securities’ lack of registration, the intended use of the proceeds, the risks associated with their purchase and other material facts for an investor to make an informed investment decision,” Reeder states.
In an interview with Reeder on April 12, Severance alleged Turner forged her signature on loan documents and lines of credit, including a mortgage on her home, that she was not aware of and did not approve.
“There were also recorded telephone calls made and face-to-face meetings with Turner where Turner admitted to forging her signature,” the affidavit states. “As a result of these unauthorized lines of credit, Severance has recently had to file for bankruptcy. Her home, which was initially paid off, is now in foreclosure as a result of an unauthorized mortgage obtained on the property.”
Reeder also interviewed Severance’s nephew, David Harris, on July 10, Harris said he worked with Turner from 2004 through October 2011, and his primary job was selling common stock in Turner’s enterprises and raising investment money.
Harris, a pastor in Lincoln County, said he obtained investment funds from about 70 people who sank between $5,000 and $10,000 into Turner’s businesses, including the production of an animated cartoon video called “The Avenging Apes of Africa” on which the concept for the Go Go Gorillas fun center was based.
“Harris said he was not aware of any investor recouping their investment and no investor made money,” Reeder states in the search warrant document.
Harris admitted that he and Turner sold unregistered securities. He also said Turner owes him about $550,000: $37,000 for a personal investment; $250,000 in credit and loans he obtained for the companies; and $260,000 in unpaid wages.
Joetta Young, former vice president of Go Go Gorillas who oversaw the day-to-day operations of the fun center, told Reeder that Turner unintentionally dialed her phone last month without realizing the call had been made. Young said she could hear Turner talking to another man about seeking additional investment to keep Go Go Gorillas operating and converting it to a day care center. Turner said he thought he could get $50,000 from a new investor, some of which would be used to operate the fun center and some would be “placed in a safe for his personal use,” Young told the detective.
“During the telephone conversation, Turner mentioned putting cash in a green safe,” Reeder states. “Young does not know where the green safe is located. She said there is a black gun safe at the fun center which Turner used to store cash generated by sales at the fun center.”