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Couple in Illinois Ponzi scheme caught in Arizona

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The U.S. Marshals Service says an Illinois couple who fled a conviction for running a Ponzi scheme has been captured in a small town west of Phoenix after a dozen years on the run. 

The arrests of 65-year-old Nelson Grant Hallahan and his 54-year-old wife, Janet Hallahan, on Saturday came after they were featured on "America's Most Wanted" the previous night.

The Marshals had nicknamed the two the "Mini-Madoffs" because their scam was similar to his.

Nelson was going under the name of Harold Clark. He was a handyman in the Tonopah area, and Janet was going by DJ, and she was cleaning houses.

A tip the day after "America's Most Wanted" aired led deputy marshals to the couple in the community of Tonopah.

They pleaded guilty in Illinois federal court to bank and mail fraud conspiracy charges and money laundering but didn't show up for sentencing in early 2000.

The Hallahans lived in Peoria, Ill., and targeted family, friends, and elderly victims by promising significant returns on investments.

They scanned the obituaries, looking for elderly victims whose loved one left them with insurance money.

They sold interest in a tanning salon and then sold the business without telling investors.

"They would offer 10 to 12 percent investment, as opposed to the 5, 6 you would get in most investments. And the early investors would make money from their investment, and what happens is they become cheerleaders for other investors. But sooner or later, it falls apart," said U.S. Marshal David Gonzales.

They used the millions they netted to live a lavish lifestyle.

"Usually these type of people -- it is in their blood. They have been doing it for 20 years, and it was just a matter of time before they would get back into it," Gonzales said.

U.S. Marshals said the case isn't closed yet. They're looking into whether or not there are more victims in the Phoenix area. In the meantime, the couple is being held here and will be extradited to Illinois within the week.


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