(WJBK) - Ernest Romer is accused of taking the life savings of his unsuspecting clients and blowing it on risky private trades and treating the money like his personal piggy bank.
"I would say I need money for my roof, he would say don't touch it, it's good, trust me," said Mary Ann Chirco.
The grandmother, who lives in Shelby Township, entrusted her money with Ernest Romer III. The Macomb County investment broker handled her parents' money - so when they passed - she did the same.
But one day last spring she went to transfer money into her 401K and realized her money, her inheritance of more than $220,000 was gone.
"They said there isn't any and I said what do you mean there isn't any money," Chirco said. "I had $220,000 and they go he had it and he took it, that's why we let go of him."
When Chirco's family first invested with Romer, he worked for Leonard and Company in Sterling Heights. Core Cap Investments took over and we're told once the complaints came in and they learned what he was doing with his investors' money, they fired Romer.
Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith says Romer has been charged with two counts of embezzlement for stealing more than a half a million dollars from senior citizens.
The 56-year-old is accused of convincing clients like Chirco to transfer their money to P&R Capital LLC - which turned out to be his own bank account.
Authorities say records show he blew most of the cash to shop at Kroger, Meijer, Costco, Target gas stations and restaurants. He also withdrew large amounts of cash and deposited the money into his children's accounts.
"It breaks my heart because my dad worked hard," Chirco said.
"He's ruined my life, I can't retire," she said. "I'm 65 I'll be 66 next March, so he ruined my life and plenty of other people."
Prosecutor Smith tells FOX 2 they believe other investors may be involved and Romer may have duped more than 20 people. Each day more victims have come forward.
No one answered the door at Romer's large Shelby Township house where Chirco admits she has sat outside and waited - hoping to get some answers from the so called financial broker.
"I was going to say why did you do this to me?" she said.
The feds has since stopped Romer from selling securities. The state of Michigan revoked Romer's license and fined him $1.5 million.