Remington's average investor lost $25,000, and Robinson found 800 more victims in the United States and other countries. Prosecutors so far have tallied $26 million in losses.
These days, Robinson is pursuing legislation to regulate commercial brokers, the way mortgage brokers and securities brokers are regulated.
Such schemes proliferate on smaller scales.
"Here in the Philadelphia area, the likes of Robert Brennan, Joe Forte, and Tony Young have pleaded guilty to stealing millions from friends, families, social acquaintances, pension funds, churches, schools, nonprofit organizations," says Leon LaRosa Jr., director of La Salle University's Fraud and Forensic Accounting Institute.
How to proceed, if you believe you are a victim?
Do your homework. "You need evidence. Prove there's more than one victim. I got online and found blogs where people were complaining about Remington," Robinson said, websites such as RipoffReport.com, Scambook.com, and MortgageGrapevine.com.
Enlist other victims. "I found investors in every state," Robinson said. "That's when I got the attention of the authorities. Remington thought the government would never connect the dots with individuals."
Start with local law enforcement, a state attorney general, or a U.S. Attorney's Office, and then the FBI. "Remington didn't fall under [the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission] jurisdiction. It was not a securities fraud and yet there were victims all over the nation," Robinson said.
Little people can beat the bad guys. "The nobodies like me are the ones who do it," she said. "The government works for me and I knew about a crime. I needed to find the agency that would do their job."
Erin Arvedlund is a finance reporter and a Philadelphia resident. Contact her at email@example.com or 646-797-0759.