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Feds: Exeter man bilked elderly widows of thousands

Union Leader Correspondent

October 08. 2012 10:21PM

An Exeter businessman already in civil court for allegedly taking $900,000 from an elderly woman while acting as her financial adviser has been indicted by a federal grand jury for money laundering, mail fraud and tax evasion.

Frederick V. McMenimen was indicted by a federal grand jury on Oct. 3 for allegedly soliciting more than $1 million from two elderly New Hampshire widows.

The 31-count indictment claims McMenimen, a former Exeter High School hockey coach who went by 'Rick,' carried out his ruse while working as a salesman for a Portsmouth-based insurance and investment brokerage firm.

His two victims were longtime family friends who believed they were entrusting their life savings to McMenimen for investments that bore high returns, federal prosecutors said.

'Each was widowed, financially unsophisticated and placed great trust in (McMenimen) to handle her financial affairs with little or no oversight on her part,' Assistant U.S. Attorney William Morse said in the complaint.

The two women were told by McMenimen to liquidate their life insurance annuities or other investments and write checks payable to what they believed was a legitimate investment company, prosecutors said.

The company, PSB, actually was shorthand for a defunct retail sporting goods business - Slapshot Sports Shop - once owned and operated by McMenimen, according to the indictment.

Between Oct. 27, 2008, and October 2011, McMenimen is accused of inducing the women to write 17 checks payable to PSB for roughly $1,033,500, Morse said in court papers.

McMenimen used his victim's money to pay more than $134,000 of his home mortgage, $31,718 in docking fees for his boat and more than $120,000 for his children's private school and college tuition, Morse said.

Another $350,000 allegedly went to credit card payments.

McMenimen is already in the throes of lawsuits and bankruptcy claims between New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

McMenimen filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in March, claiming he owes $3.7 million, including $300,000 in tax liens.

A $1.5 million civil judgment was also awarded to the estate of McMenimen's uncle, Samuel Pietropaolo. He, then his estate, filed a lawsuit claiming to be victims of fraud regarding a life insurance policy bought in 1998.

But in one court filing, McMenimen purportedly told a trustee that he hoped to keep his $140,000 boat called 'Coach.'

One of the victims in the criminal case, Susan Wagstaff of Hampton Falls, filed a civil lawsuit in Rockingham County Superior Court in March alleging she was duped into handing over roughly $900,000 to McMenimen.

Wagstaff told a judge that she had known McMenimen for 20 years, and he eventually came to control her investments.

'My grandchildren and the McMenimen children have been very close and have grown up together,' Wagstaff said in a sworn affidavit.

Her daughter and son-in-law lived next door to the McMenimen family. And the two families vacationed and spent Thanksgivings together. The McMenimen children referred to Wagstaff as 'Grandy,' she said.

In 1997, McMenimen set up Wagstaff with an irrevocable life insurance trust for the benefit of her three children, according to the civil lawsuit. McMenimen made his wife, Shauna, a trustee of the irrevocable trust, the lawsuit claims.

In the years that followed, Wagstaff said she noticed the McMenimen family enjoyed all the trappings of an affluent family: a spacious home with a pool, hot tub and Jacuzzi; a 40-foot boat and private high schools and colleges for their children.

'I am concerned that funds I have transferred from my annuities to companies that Rick McMenimen recommended I invest in have supported an expensive lifestyle for the entire family,' she said in the affidavit.

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