Jan. 10--On websites and YouTube videos, Eric L. Smith, a former insurance agent from Tulsa, claims he knows the secrets to financial success -- and he wants to share them.
"What is your particular choice? Do you want to be on Pleasure Island where life is good, or do you want to be on Pain Island where everyone seems to still be struggling?" Smith asks in one shaky, hand-held cellphone video uploaded to YouTube last fall.
Wearing an immaculate suit and tie, Smith sometimes goes by the name "Mr. Emoney" online.
Smith claims he can help people maximize their income, but a retired couple in Glenpool claims in a lawsuit that Smith cheated them out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Oklahoma Securities Department in December filed an enforcement action against Smith and his companies, Smarter Money Now LLC and Wealth Solutions LLC, to keep Smith from selling unregistered securities in the state.
The agency filed the action to keep Smith from continuing to solicit investors, said Irving Faught, administrator for the Securities Department.
Yet as recently as this week, Smith was still promoting himself on Twitter and Facebook as a financial expert offering seminars on financial freedom.
Glenpool residents Bob and Marjorie Rutledge claim Smith defrauded them out of more than $500,000 over a two-year period.
"He took every bit of our life savings," Marjorie Rutledge said. "It puts an emotional and physical strain on you."
Bob Rutledge, an 86 year-old retired programmer for Douglas Aircraft Co., said he trusted Smith because he was licensed to sell insurance for Aviva Life and Annuity Co.
"I thought he worked for a legitimate company. He even talked my wife and I into mortgaging our home," said Bob Rutledge, who met Smith at one of his investment seminars in Tulsa on the recommendation of a friend.
Smith convinced the Rutledges to withdraw their savings from annuities and other policies and invest it with him, the couple claim in a lawsuit they filed against Smith in 2012 in Tulsa County.
The couple claim Smith told them they could get a better rate of return on their money if they invested it with him.
The Rutledges also took out a $180,000 mortgage on their house to add to their investments with Smith.
The Rutledges still don't know what happened to most of their money.
"As soon as we started asking for our money back, wouldn't you know it, we never saw or heard from him again," Marjorie Rutledge said.
The Rutledges won a default judgment against Smith, but the couple are also suing Aviva for breach of fiduciary duty and negligence for allegedly failing to properly supervise Smith.
The company declined to comment.
License has lapsed
Smith's insurance license has lapsed and he cannot renew it because of a tax lien, said Kelly Collins, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Insurance Department. The Insurance Department said it could not comment on whether it is investigating Smith.
Attempts to contact Smith via phone and email addresses listed on his websites were unsuccessful.
Instead of hiring an attorney, Smith defended himself against the Rutledges' lawsuit.
In court filings, Smith called the legal process a "sham," and said he provided the Rutledges' with financial advice that increased the value of their investment portfolio by nearly $28,000.
"The plaintiffs in this matter were individuals that were very concerned about the daily losses that they were incurring in their portfolio (up to 5k a day), and expressed repeated desire to increase their monthly income due to inflation and reduced benefits," Smith said in the filing. "Eric L. Smith ... has never knowingly or intentionally misrepresented any of the financial products that he has recommended."