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SEC: Pet store owner must pay back $198k

STORY BY MEG LAUGHLIN (Week of June 5, 2014)
Photo of Susan Olive.

The Securities and Exchange Commission just announced that Vero Beach pet store owner Susan Olive and husband Richard, who is serving a 31-year sentence in federal prison for fraud, must pay back $2.3 million in illegally gained money and fines.

In an interview with Vero Beach 32963 last August, Susan Olive predicted that the SEC charges would be dismissed because they were based on “a few unintentional misunderstandings. I promise you that we did nothing to hurt anyone,” she said.

But federal magistrate judge Frank J. Lynch, Jr. disagreed, ruling last Thursday that the Olives admitted that the “allegations in the complaint (of unjust enrichment) are true” and the couple must pay back millions of dollars within 14 days or face further charges.

As part of the settlement with the SEC, Susan Olive agreed to pay over $198,000 in fines and reimbursement for bilking elderly clients, while Richard Olive agreed to pay over $2 million. 

The SEC also barred the two from the securities industry for life.

Reached by phone at the Village Pet Inn on Friday, Susan Olive abruptly hung up when asked if she and Richard would be able to pay back the money.

Previously, Susan Olive had asked Vero Beach 32963 not to write about the charges against her, which included “unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty and fraudulent transfers,” because she said, “You’ll ruin my life here. I’ve worked so hard to have what I have.”

In early 2013, the SEC charged the Olives with selling $75 million in bogus charitable gift annuities to over 400 retired people in Florida, Texas, Tennessee and Colorado by claiming that the money would help AIDs orphans in Africa, while generating “attractive financial benefits” for the investors.

But, said the SEC, “only a small amount of the money was actually directed to charitable services” or to the investors. Instead, the Olives “siphoned away funds for their personal use.”

Court records showed that the couple chartered private jets for family vacations, bought a $700,000 condo in Las Vegas and helped themselves to over $1 million in salary and commissions.

The money, said the suit, came from “elderly investors with limited investing experience” who were “coaxed by the Olives to transfer their life savings – including stocks, annuities, real estate and cash – to We The People, Inc., to operate the charity and produce income” for investors.

But instead, said the SEC, “the primary purpose was to use the proceeds to pay substantial sums to the Olives, third-party promoters and consultants.”

In a recent interview about being in the pet business in Vero Beach, Susan Olive said what set her business apart from others was customer service: “We strive to please our customers,” she said.