(Originally published on Aug. 31)By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities couple is accused of lying to hundreds of investors in what’s being called a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme.

Investigators say Jason Bullard and Angela Romero-Bullard told friends and family, including retirees, that they were investing their money. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a civil complaint, alleging the money went to other places, and a judge has frozen their assets.

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Attorney Doug Kelley is not related to the case, but he was a court-appointed receiver in the state’s largest Ponzi scheme.

“They’re alleging a very classic Ponzi scheme, much modeled after [Bernie] Madoff,” Kelley said.

In the Bullard’s case, investigators allege the couple said they would invest family and friends’ money, and instead used it for car payments, credit cards, life insurance premiums and living expenses. The nearly $18 million from roughly 200 investors also apparently went to prop up their other businesses, including Empire Racing Stables, that races horses at Canterbury Park.

Jason Bullard and Angela Romero-Bullard (credit: Canterbury Park)

“When people started asking to get their money out, they did what is so typical in a Ponzi scheme,” Kelley said. “They took the new investors’ money to pay the old investors off.”

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No one answered at the couple’s Shakopee home when WCCO knocked, and we haven’t heard back from their attorneys. According to documents, it’s an address tied to their businesses.

People who know the Bullards say they know them to be nice and trustworthy, and call them respected members of the racing community.

Bernell Rhome trains two of the horses with their racing club. At least one raced Tuesday night at Canterbury. Many involved are worried about their own investments.

“I never even suspected it, but I guess I wasn’t looking for it either,” Rhome said. “All I know is he paid the bills. Where he got the money, I don’t know, but he’s been a good relationship for me.”

Kelley believes this is a precursor to federal criminal charges.

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The Minnesota Racing Commission and Canterbury said they will cooperate with investigators. For now, the couple’s horses can still race, but any purse money they earn is on hold.

Jennifer Mayerle