Investor’s trump card turning into a joker

Fran Paiva played bridge with some of the world’s best and most famous players, and she knew a trump card when she saw one. Or at least she thought she did.

Paiva, now 82 and living in an Alzheimer’s care facility in upstate New York, invested her money with what was for a time an ace in a long trump suit: Valley Investments in Grand Junction.

Now Paiva’s daughter, Linda Jackson, is looking at her mother’s cards and finding the trump suit was an illusion.

The direct deposit of a check into Paiva’s account on the fourth of the month didn’t take place. Valley Investments has been closed by Colorado Securities Commissioner Fred Joseph, whose investigation into the business is continuing.

Valley owner Philip Rand Lochmiller was selling unregistered securities and failed to reveal to authorities or customers his past, which included pleading guilty to 30 counts of securities fraud in California, authorities say.

No criminal charges have been brought against Lochmiller in Colorado, but the securities division and the FBI are continuing to investigate his dealings.

The reality of the fall of Valley Investments has crossed the country, shattering Jackson’s belief that her mother’s care was assured, as was her own retirement.

When Jackson received a call from a friend of her mother in Grand Junction about Valley, “I had this horrible, sinking feeling,” she said.

Now, she has to seriously consider the prospect of what to do when her mother’s savings run out, probably in a few months.

“Worst-case scenario, I won’t be able to pay the huge amount of monthly fees she has in the Alzheimer’s-care facility,” Jackson said. “She has no other income except Social Security, and that’s not nearly enough to cover her fees plus her 15 medications, her doctor visits and miscellaneous items. She’s on a lot of supplements.”

People afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease frequently don’t get hungry, Jackson said. Her mother has lost 47 pounds since the onset of the disease.

Paiva and her husband, Frank, operated A-1 Driving School in Grand Junction for several years. After his death, she maintained the business until 2001, when she sold it.

When she wasn’t helping students learn to drive, she played bridge and was recognized as a Silver Life Master by the American Contract Bridge League.

When she lived near Boston, celebrities such as actor Omar Sharif paid her to play, Jackson said.

“To see this very intelligent woman dwindle away,” Jackson said, “it’s just very sad.”
In New York, Paiva’s Alzheimer’s-care facility is just minutes from her home, Jackson said, allowing her to visit frequently. Jackson’s daughter got a job there so she could see her grandmother while at work.

For Alzheimer’s patients, moving is traumatic, Jackson said.

“When you take them out of their environment, they get confused and suffer major anxiety attacks, and they act out,” Jackson said.

Paiva learned of Valley Investments from a friend, and Jackson learned of it from her mother.

She, like many others, watched Valley’s performance for years before deciding to put some of her own money in.

Valley offered monthly payments of simple interest, or investors could leave their money with the company and be promised compound interest.

Paiva’s money always arrived on time, until this month, and Jackson is left to wonder if any of her interest earning was real or just on paper.

Jackson even once flew into Grand Junction strictly to meet the people at Valley Investments and check them out.

Had Lochmiller revealed his criminal background, she said, “I would never have invested.”

Jackson still wants to give Lochmiller some benefit of doubt, she said. But it also seems that the retirement she had anticipated for herself is gone, and she feels she failed her mother.

“It was my job to watch her investment,” she said. “I feel very responsible.”

Jackson had hoped to ensure her future with her own savings, but half of those are gone, along with Valley.

“Now everything has bottomed out,” she said. “My real world is nothing like the one I thought I had.”


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