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Flyer Flashback

To mark the Flyer's 20th anniversary, we're looking back at stories from our first two decades.

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Last week's cover story by John Branston spotlighted the Stanford Financial Group: "An international financial scam burns Memphis investors, nonprofits, and politicians."

Well, not much has changed in 15 years. The March 3, 1994, issue of the Flyer included a story — yep, by John Branston — headlined "Prominent Memphians Caught up in Alleged Texas Scam." The whole mess sounds depressingly familiar:

"Several prominent Memphians are trying to recover over $1 million they invested with a Houston socialite accused of operating a Ponzi scheme. Teresa Rodriguez was known as one of the sharpest business operators in Houston. She played on her ethnic background and political savvy to get business for her employment-contracts firm. Contracts from the Small Business Administration were supposedly so plentiful and profitable that Rodriguez could pay investors a 10 to 20 percent return per month."

Just one problem: "Rodriguez was not registered as a minority contractor and had never received any SBA contracts."

Memphians caught unawares included a former president of Union Planters Bank, a vice president of the Sara Lee Corporation, and the CEO of Le Bonheur Healthcare Systems, who lost every cent of their investment when Rodriguez' house of cards came tumbling down.

As we went to press 15 years ago, investors had filed a lawsuit to recover their losses. Rodriguez eventually went to prison for mail fraud.

Michael Finger

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