Author loses her dreams in Ponzi scheme
Carolyn White saved thousands of dollars from her share of profits from an orchard, money she was hoping to parlay into her plan to complete and distribute a line of children’s science books.
White’s adventurous tales of “Snowff” earned the endorsement of her brother, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and of John McConnell, founder of the Western Colorado Math and Science Center in Grand Junction.
White had no illusions about the difficulty and expense of breaking into the children’s market. That’s why she set her money aside and looked for a way to make it grow.
The business White trusted to help her do that was Valley Investments in Grand Junction and its owner, Philip Rand Lochmiller.
State officials closed Valley Investments last spring, and Lochmiller remains under investigation by the FBI and state securities regulators, who said Lochmiller never told his clients that he pleaded guilty to 30 counts of securities fraud in California and was sentenced to a three-year prison term.
Officials and the receivership appointed to look after Valley Investments’ affairs have said more than 300 people invested more than $30 million with the company, which the receivership said was operated as a Ponzi scheme.
White said she knew none of that when she invested her savings, which amounted to six figures.
White, who plays the organ at churches around the Grand Valley, used her musical contacts to complete the CDs that accompany her books, which depict a snowflake, “Snowff,” (http://www.snowff.com) in a series of adventures that introduce young readers to scientific concepts such as the water cycle, thunderstorms, clouds and the atmosphere, a beaver dam and, most recently, gravity.
“She’s able to take science and weave it into a story,” McConnell said.
McConnell has used White’s books and CDs with children and said he was struck by how closely young students paid attention, one even noticing different voices for the same character in different books.
“You changed grandpas,” the student told him. “Kids really do pay attention.”
White’s lost investment with Valley Investments “is obviously going to hurt” her efforts to get the series into classrooms, McConnell said.
White didn’t put her savings blindly into Valley Investments. She said she spoke with other investors, looked at statements and tried to consider her investment from all angles.
“I did everything I could do to be a diligent person” and invest wisely toward her goal of financing Snowff’s scientific adventures.
She even told Lochmiller of her plans and asked him directly whether he would invest if he were in her shoes.
She said he responded, “Absolutely.”
What will happen now with her venture is unclear, she said, but she has her granddaughter’s comfort: “Grandma, you’ve still got your books.”