Man Pleads Guilty To Defrauding Elderly Clients

Posted at 5:12 PM, Aug 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-24 20:32:51-04

A former insurance salesman from Nashville pleaded guilty to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his elderly clients.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates first exposed John Wilson and his investment scheme back in May. Back then, he denied doing anything wrong. Wednesday, he was back in a federal courtroom to change his plea.

As John Wilson arrived for court, he did not answer any questions.

Newschannel 5 Investigates asked, "Why did you take all of the money from all of those elderly people?"

Wilson responded, "No comment. Thank you. Have a blessed day."

We then asked, "Are you sorry?" And, in return, he appeared to hum.

But once inside the federal courthouse when the judge asked the 53-year-old former insurance salesman if he'd done all that he's accused of, Wilson said yes.

Wilson ran Preserve Financial Group in Brentwood and admitted in court that he used a fraudulent scheme to convince his clients to sell their life insurance policies and annuities. He told them he'd invest their money. Federal prosecutors said he pocketed it instead. In all, nearly three quarters of a million dollars.

After the brief hearing, one of his victims, Donna Siewert, said, "I mean I'm going to die probably before he gets out of jail, I mean out of prison, and my husband will also, and we don't have any insurance for burial because of him."

Earlier this year, Siewert told NewsChannel 5 Investigates how she'd lost nearly everything she had because she trusted WIlson.

"We're paying a dear price for it," she added.

Siewert drove more than two hours from her home in East Tennessee so she could hear Wilson finally admit to what he'd done. Other victims and their families showed up, too.

"It's just painful to go through what we've gone through, and him pleading guilty, you know, he's guilty," Susan Gilmore described after the hearing. Her 85-year-old mother, Paula, lost her life savings to Wilson's scheme.

Investigators also found Wilson gained access to her bank account and three credit cards and racked up tens of thousands of dollars in charges for a family vacation to Hilton Head, a private fishing charter, airline tickets, and concert and football tickets. There was even a $1,100 charge to MTSU where Wilson's son was a student.

In all, prosecutors said 18 victims have come forward. Most were elderly and either physically or mentally frail.

"What he's taken away from people, that cannot be repaid," Greg Gilmore, Paula's Gilmore's son, told NewsChannel 5 Investigates after his sister, Amy Nix, said of Wilson, "He's a coward. He's a coward, and I don't believe he really believes he's guilty."

His victims' families said they want justice and an apology would be nice, too.

But when NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Wilson, "Are you sorry?" as he entered the federal courthouse, he said nothing.

Wilson has been charged with two counts of wire fraud. He's set to be sentenced in November. He's facing up to 40 years in prison, but under his plea deal, he'll probably get between four to five years. He will also likely be ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and restitution.