Investor: ‘I gave him all my money’
A sobbing Steve Bagga recounted for a U.S. District jury in Denver how he drew out thousands of dollars from his credit cards to put into Valley Investments on the promise of company owner Philip Rand Lochmiller that all would be well.
“I gave him all my money,” Bagga, 68, testified while Lochmiller sat a few feet away in the courtroom of Judge Philip A. Brimmer.
That included more than $200,000 from 16 credit cards and nearly $300,000 against his house, to say nothing of multiple investments Bagga already had made in Valley Investments’ program, which called for investors to give $20,000 and $25,000 increments for interest rates of 14 percent and higher.
Even as the collapse of Valley Investments was complete on the evening of May 19, 2009, Lochmiller called to assure him that all was well, and he would have the company back in business soon.
That was soon after he had reached Philip Rand Lochmiller II, who told him he was packing to catch a flight at 4:30 p.m. to Kansas City. The younger Lochmiller earlier had promised to meet Bagga at the company office, 1445 N. Seventh St., at 4:30 p.m., Bagga testified.
Bagga, known to Grand Valley television viewers as the optician who advertises, “Second pair free, second pair free,” said he watched Valley Investments for 13 years before he decided to begin with a small investment.
His hope was to earn enough money to help the widows of his native country, provide for a reasonable retirement and pay his taxes, Bagga testified.
Bagga, who was born a Sikh in India and emigrated to the United States as a Christian, said he toured Valley Investments’ nearest project, Country Living Park in Mack, with Lochmiller, so he could see it for himself and “make sure everything was kosher.”
Lochmiller was reassuring throughout 2008 when Bagga was a frequent visitor, inquiring as to the condition of his investments against the backdrop of the slowing national and global economy, Bagga said.
“He would say, ‘You are in good hands, as good as gold,’” Bagga said he was told in one of his last face-to-face conversations with Lochmiller. “The next week they were totally shut down.”
Asked by defense attorney Daniel Smith about whether he worked more with the younger Lochmiller than the elder one, Bagga conceded the point, but then blurted out, “But all the decisions were made ...,” only to be cut off by Smith, who said, “There’s no question on the floor, sir.”
Bagga appealed to Brimmer, after he was excused, to speak directly to the jury.
“Please forgive me,” Bagga told Brimmer. “Sometimes the questions are not fair.”