With Friends Like These

GOP official and Edison spokesperson Jo Ellen Allen drew friends, patriots and Republican allies into her husbands multimillion-dollar investment scam

"A lot has happened since we were teammates 45 years ago and you were my 'best man' at my wedding. I purchased the first $100,000 life insurance policy you ever sold. . . . You came to me on this deal because you again needed help, and I have raised $1,150,000 for your new project," Gary wrote. "I have always been there for you. Please do what is right and honor our agreement."

The next month, the Robins were still pleading—in writing—for the return of their money.

"What in the world is going on? Your investors are calling me day and night because you refuse to return their calls, and no one including me knows what is happening," he wrote. "No one just hands over almost one and a quarter million dollars for the company to gamble with. We have a right to know where and how the money is being spent—to know for sure the money is not being used to pay old creditors . . . or Jo Ellen's political campaign. . . . These questions I am asked daily and cannot honestly answer to my wife or my friends. Please take care of these things so I, at least, will not be so embarrassed that I start avoiding the phone."

Three months later, the Robins were disillusioned.

"The possibility that we could lose our funds—funds that represent a lifetime of work—is horrifying. Whatever reason you have for stringing me along for the past seven months cannot be allowed to happen," Robin wrote on Oct. 27, 1997. "I am truly sorry you have pushed our friendship to its limits by not honoring your word."

The Robins hired an attorney and eventually became one of the few lucky ones: Eddie paid them back—using other investors' money. Nevertheless, the Robins are no longer friends with the Allens.

 

Lee Pickett, 81, of Port Ludlow, Washington, was not as fortunate as the Robins, her next-door neighbors. The Robins introduced Lee and her disabled husband, John, to Eddie and Jo Ellen. After selling himself as part of a dynamic, conservative, Republican power couple whose lives were dedicated to Christianity, Eddie enticed the Picketts into loaning him $553,000 in 1996. To do that, the Picketts liquidated another investment then earning them $7,000 per month.

"He sold himself as a good Republican, a military hero, a good family man," remembers Lee Pickett. "And he always acted very concerned about my husband. He had me believing that he wanted to be friends of ours and help us. He promised us we would make a killing off him. We didn't know it then, but it was all an illusion."

Like other examples outlined in federal court records, friendship was fleeting once Eddie got control of the Picketts' money. He wrote them terse notes, Lee says, rarely answered their phone calls and made "lots of excuses" for delays in paying when the money was due. The Picketts' financial situation became perilous.

"I have asked you to help us in the name of friendship, and the fact that we came through for you when you needed us, but your responses have been cavalier, cool, evasive and vague," Lee Pickett wrote Eddie in 1999, just before they had to file for bankruptcy to keep their home.

The Picketts never saw their money again. The next year, Lee was still pleading for their money.

"I am disappointed, disgusted and disturbed over our business experience and contact with you," wrote Pickett.

"It's been a tremendous struggle for us," Pickett told the Weekly. "What Eddie did to us is so despicable. We are the victims. He has to be stopped from doing this to anyone else."

She also says Eddie has a not-so-silent, if unofficial, business partner: his wife of 25 years, Jo Ellen.

"Jo Ellen is definitely part of promoting Eddie. She vouched for his businesses. She gave us the sense that everything would be all right," said Lee, who has kept detailed notes of her conversations with both Eddie and Jo Ellen.

"You would have to be a dumbbell to live with a man like that for those many years and not know what he's up to," she said. "And Jo Ellen is no dumbbell."

Next: Where's law enforcement?

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