Real Name: Nils Eugene Flannes
Aliases: Gene Flannes
Wanted For: Fraud
Missing Since: April 1988
Details: Investment broker Gene Flannes is wanted for bilking several elderly investors out of over four million dollars in the town of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Flannes was a popular businessman who often helped organize charity events, like the annual charity golf event. He was also a lay preacher at a local church and a fund raiser for the local cancer society.
Flannes owned and operated a company called NEFCO, which was targeted towards the financial needs of the retired community. After working for years to accumulate their life savings, they needed to maximize their monthly interest earnings. NEFCO promised retirees increased quarterly payments through a special arrangement with the Kemper group. Many customers were impressed by the group and felt that their money was the safest with them.
By 1988, Flannes's reputation and high interest rates had attracted over 100 clients who had invested over $4 million through NEFCO. At the beginning of each quarter, many would receive checks from the NEFCO accounts. Along with these checks, a corroborating Kemper financial statement was also enclosed. The statements appeared to be official. For ten years, they arrived on time. However, in early April of 1988, as tax time approached, several investors became concerned when their money did not arrive.
Investors tried unsuccessfully to contact Flannes, asking about their checks. When they went to his office, they were told that he was out of town. Office manager Tami Sorter had the difficult job of trying to calm down and reassure the angry investors. She believed that everything was okay and that Flannes would deal with everything when he returned.
When Flannes left town, one of his associates flew to the main office of the Kemper group in Chicago to find out first hand why the delays were occurring. He asked to speak to the Kemper executive in charge of the NEFCO account. He was shocked to find that the executive did not exist. He also discovered that the 328 accounts that were supposed to be there had never existed either. On that same day, Flannes called his office. When he learned of his associate's trip to Chicago, he swiftly found an excuse to hang up. He has not spoken to his employees or investors since.
FBI investigators discovered that Flannes had developed a pyramid scheme by stringing along old investors through the financial contributions of new recruits. For ten years, he had covered his tracks by preparing his own fraudulent Kemper statements. One investor and her husband lost $100,000. Another lost $60,000, which prevented him from helping his children with their financial issues. Another couple lost over $300,000 and were unable to pay their bills. The husband had to take up a nearly full-time job at a store in Hot Springs to help make ends' meet. Fortunately, their children were later able to help them.
Along with Flannes, over $4 million has also disappeared. An FBI probe into his background turned up some startling information. In the late 1940s and 1950s, he had been arrested for forgery and grand theft. He had spent several years in a California prison. In tracking Flannes, the FBI also discovered that he sold his car to a dealer in Dallas on April 11, 1988. After that, he flew to Las Vegas, gambled heavily, and disappeared.
Many of his victims have been forced out of their retirement in order to pay the bills. One victim suffered a heart attack and is still recuperating. His victims hope that he can be captured so that they can have their money returned, if possible. Flannes was indicted by a grand jury in November of 1988 on mail and wire fraud charges.
Extra Notes: This case was featured as part of the November 8, 1989 episode.
Interestingly, an alleged bigamist, Raymond Doyle, was arrested after an Unsolved Mysteries viewer called the telecenter, believing he was Flannes.
Results: Captured. In July of 1991, Gene Flannes was arrested in Fort Walton Beach, Florida by the FBI. He was living on Okaloosa Island under the name "Dick Blakemor" and ran a small mail-order business. He was taken back to Arkansas to stand trial for fraud. He later pleaded guilty to the charges. The sentence he received is not known. Flannes died on May 29, 2009 at the age of eighty-six.
- SEC News Digest - December 12, 1988
- Walking the Beat Against Bad Brokers
- Man charged as bigamist after tip
- FBI: Man who bilked $3.8 million arrested
- 69-year-old accused swindler arrested
- Scam bilked $4 million from elderly, FBI says
- Neighbors: Fugitive was poor, helpful
- Suspect in fraud to go to Arkansas
- Evangelist in Arkansas for Hearing
- SEC News Digest - August 5, 1991
- Fugitive from Harrison captured in Honduras
- Slagle v. Flannes