NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) - A Noblesville man accused of running a $6 million Ponzi scheme said he’s apologized and now lives in fear. He spoke with I-Team 8 as his assets remain frozen and his victims seek answers.
John Marcum was a man in hiding until I-Team 8 tracked him down. His case is one of the bizarre, including a bounty hunter reality TV show, a soul food restaurant and an offer of suicide for money.
The face and voice of Mama Slack singing fills Southern Kitchen, a soul food restaurant off 96th Street in Fishers.
"We started this restaurant with her in mind — her love of cooking, her love of family," said Debra Slack, Mama Slack’s daughter-in-law.
Debra Slack said John Marcum of Guaranty Reserves Trust put it all in jeopardy. Slack tears up speaking about it.
"John got my pension and my 401K. With everything else we did, it was over $100,000," she said.
The Securities Exchange Commission has accused Marcum of running a $6 million Ponzi scheme that tricked investors out of their retirement. He said he used the money to invest in Southern Kitchen and “U.S. Bounty Hunters,” a reality show. The restaurant and reality show stars paint a different picture.
The SEC says Debra Slack, bounty hunter Fred “The Enforcer” and bounty hunter Denise "The Huntress" are among 37 people deceived by Marcum’s company.
"We all lost a lot of money on this deal,” Fred said. “I understand why he is on the run —not just from us."
The bounty hunters and Southern Kitchen say money that was invested in their businesses, in reality, was their own money.
"He was just recycling our money back to us, making it look like they were investing in us,” Fred said.
Marcum promised double digit returns, according to the civil charging documents from the SEC. When investors pressed for proof or money, the SEC says he provided fake documents, including monthly statements showing their earnings.
"I was getting my monthly (statement) showing my money was in there but it really wasn't. It wasn't there at all," said Denise, one of the bounty hunters.
She and others got suspicious when they couldn't access their money.
I-Team 8 lured Marcum out of hiding for an exclusive one-on-one interview.
"There's an element of deception in business these days,” Marcum said after asked if he deceived people.
Marcum lived the Hollywood lifestyle on the red carpet, hanging with celebrities, managing the career of racecar driver Arie Lyuendyk, Jr. One of his companies was a sponsor of IndyCar and Playboy parties in Los Angeles, Calif.
According to SEC court records, Marcum used investor money "to finance that lifestyle." It included a half million dollars for "luxury car payments, airline tickets, expensive meals, hotels."
Along with fake monthly statements, he gave fake documents showing he was worth nearly $300 million, according to the SEC. But court records state, "In fact, Marcum is nearly broke ... his accounts contain less than $2,000."
"When you live in a culture — which we definitely do now — that says if you're not cheatin' you're not tryin' well," Marcum said.
Marcus admitted to I-Team 8 he told investors "white lies."
"You have to understand the white lie was not to deceive them,” Marcum said. “The white lie was to take a worry from them and hold it myself."
Court records say Marcum admitted in a taped conference call with investors he misappropriated their money and then "begged for additional time to recover their money."
"I just want to use business to solve business problems," Marcum told I-Team 8.
When asked if he could still succeed and recoup the money he replied, "Absolutely. I mean, it's not that hard."
In the same call with investors, he offered to commit suicide so investors could take his insurance money as partial payment.
"I would not have been the first person to have taken their own life so their families and loved ones could have a better one,” Marcum said.
Then I-Team 8 obtained the video of Marcum he once posted on YouTube but took down. In it, he wears a black mask covering everything but his eyes as he addresses the camera.
"I'm John Marcum,” the video begins. “Odds are you have probably heard of me by now. I'm the guy who took millions of dollars from people."
Marcum goes on to say he has a lot of people looking for him. He is now living in fear.
“If there is a pop in the wall, then I'm a foot off the ground thinking, ‘OK, they're coming to get me,’" he said in his interview with I-Team 8.
Of the half million in "expenses" he says, "It's the only thing I feel pretty comfortable with. That my lifestyle never exceeded those of my clients."
But in the SEC charging documents, there’s a $27,000 charge for going out to a Hollywood nightclub.
"That is the only thing I regret," Marcum said.
Some of the investors waiting for their money have wondered if Marcum is hiding money somewhere. Marcum said he wouldn’t comment on “other assets we may or may not have,” after asked if he had off-shore accounts. He said he had no personal off-shore accounts, though.
Marcum said he has repeatedly apologized to the victims, so his message to them now is, "I need to get back to work.”
For Southern Kitchen, it’s now about trying to survive.
"The negativity he did, the bad that he did, is not Southern Kitchen. Southern Kitchen has nothing to do with that,” Slack said.
For the bounty hunters, it is about waiting.
"Once it becomes a criminal charge, then we are going after him just to satisfy all of the investors - 40 something of us - that lost money on him,” Fred said.
Marcum likens himself to a modern day Robin Hood, saying he handed out $200,000 in investor money to an Indiana charity that provides jobs for ex-convicts and paid some money to those in need first.
The SEC obtained an emergency order and has frozen his accounts. As of when this story aired, no criminal charges had been filed.
U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett’s office won't comment on an ongoing investigation or potential criminal charges.
A Winter Weather Advisory has been issued for all of central Indiana until 7a.m. Monday.
IMPD officials say a 3-year-old boy has died after he was shot in the head Saturday evening.
Christmas is just over two weeks away, but it came early for some very special kids in Hancock County.