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Ponzi scheme victim objects to plea deal

A former Sandpoint real estate agent has pleaded guilty to six federal felonies for a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of $2 million.

Dale Edward Lowell, 59, now of Colbert, faces up to 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced in October, but a plea deal approved Tuesday in U.S. District Court calls for prosecutors to ask for a low sentence and $1.7 million in restitution.

That doesn’t sit well with Jeffrey Bales of Sandpoint. His now ex-wife met Lowell when he worked as a pianist at the Church of the Nazrene in Sandpoint. The two began a secret affair, and Bales’ wife persuaded him to invest nearly $180,000 in Lowell’s investment scheme, “Dale’s Investment Club.”

“It really means nothing to me,” Bales said of the restitution requirement. “I don’t know of any way he has the ability to provide restitution.”

Lowell, who with his public defender Jaime Hawk declined comment after the hearing, is living with his parents and has transferred his assets to other family members, Bales said. He remains out of custody awaiting his Oct. 31 sentencing in Coeur d’Alene for six counts of wire fraud.

A Bonner County judge has already ordered Lowell to repay about $2 million, but Bales said no one has seen a dime.

“I’m barely able to keep my home,” Bales said. Bales said he lost his sons’ college savings and has accrued $240,000 in debt.

Bales said he’s hopeful Lowell will face substantial time in prison. Otherwise, Bales said, “this would show that the risk of getting caught is worth the payout.”

Lowell’s son was ordered in April 2010 to repay money used to buy a home by selling the house, but Bales said the family had taken a second mortgage, so the sale money went to a bank.

Lowell was sued by the state of Idaho in May 2009 after he allegedly bilked 23 investors by guaranteeing returns of 10 percent per month based on trade in stock options. But Lowell never made money for his investors or for himself, court documents say, and he began paying early investors with money from subsequent investors starting in 2005. In 2008, he began promising to double investor money in four months.

But just before lawsuit, Lowell emailed investors and said “99.99 percent of all representations by me have evolved into being 100 percent false,” according to previously published reports.

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