TWO HARBORS, MINN. – Ray Turcotte once owned a gas station in this scenic town of 3,700 on Lake Superior’s North Shore. His wife, Judy, ran a hair salon. After amassing a net worth approaching $1 million, they retired to the lakeside home Ray Turcotte built with his own hands.
placing their financial future in the hands of David Ripley, the
Turcottes are broke. Their home, which they owned free and clear, now
carries a mortgage they can’t afford, and they could be evicted during
the depths of winter.
86, has been hospitalized since late November after suffering a stroke,
which his wife blames on the stress of their financial loss.
nothing, and I mean nothing,” said Judy Turcotte, who, at 74, brings in a
few dollars by doing laundry at a bed-and-breakfast. “Ray and I are
just two old people who worked our tails off. We had our house paid for.
We had stocks. We had investments. And it’s all gone.”
court documents and interviews, Ripley ingratiated himself with the
elderly and childless couple, persuading them to let him manage their
finances. He promised to take care of them, they said. They put so much
trust in him, in fact, that they even helped him buy a house next door
to their own. He still lives there, despite taking control of their
money and cleaning them out, the Turcottes said.
“He said, ‘You’re older, vulnerable adults. You don’t have anybody to help you,’ ” Judy Turcotte said.
“He told us he loved us,” she said, sobbing. “He said, ‘You’re more of a mother to me than my own mother was.’ ”
The Turcottes aren’t the only ones who have claimed to be victimized
by Ripley, 56, who arrived here from North Dakota about 15 years ago.
Since then, Ripley has been involved in a dizzying array of investment
deals and property transactions that have left a trail of angry
investors across three states, according to court records and
Many of the
deals wound up in litigation, and several lawsuits ended with
substantial penalties against Ripley, who owes more than $2 million in
court judgments and unpaid loans, public records show. Included are two
convictions for civil fraud.
In a recent interview at his home, Ripley denied all the Turcottes’ allegations.
“From my perspective, it’s sour grapes,” he said.
Bonnie Piehl, Ripley’s longtime partner in life and in business, also denied that she and Ripley did anything wrong.
“They can’t say we scammed them out of one dime,” Piehl said.
In an interview from his hospital bed, Ray Turcotte still couldn’t quite believe how events unfolded.
“You’re going to wonder how the hell this can happen,” he said.
Court and land records, and interviews with Ripley’s investors, tell a complicated story. (Click to Continue)
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Victims of love: An elderly Minnesota couple lost everything to a man they viewed as the son they never had