Bright and early on the morning of Feb. 19, 55-year-old Michael Nunnenkamp wheeled himself up to the sidewalk in front of Wilton Station and called its property manager a thief.
Stuck to the back of his wheelchair read a sign: PONZI THIEF MANAGER @ WILTON STATION. In Nunnenkamp’s front he held another sign: JANET & JIM ELLIS STOLE MY $ MONEY $.
A Wilton Station guard soon materialized and stood a dozen feet away, taking notes. Within minutes, Peggy Kennedy, the president of the board at Wilton Station, briskly walked toward Nunnenkamp. When she reached him, her voice was low. But within seconds, she was raising it, explaining to him what extortion meant. She then threatened that she and 40 other people would go and protest in front of a local Target, where Nunnenkamp’s ex-partner works.
Nunnenkamp told SFGN she said to him, “We’re going to destroy you.”
Former Wilton Station Board President Rick Khun found the threats to be absurd.
“I think it’s outrageous that a board president would threaten a one-legged man who’s exercising his right to protest an injunction,” he said. Khun is another of alleged victim of the Wilton Station Ponzi scheme.
Hours after the incident, Kennedy spoke to SFGN off the record, but agreed to an interview at a time after publication. The next morning, she cancelled the interview, saying she’d spoken to legal counsel.
“The facts that I have I’m going to use for the benefit of our association,” she said in a voicemail to SFGN.
At the one-man protest Kennedy held up a piece of paper to Nunnenkamp forcing him to read it. It was an old note he’d signed about a year earlier. In sloppy script, it read:
Received from James Ellis all principal monies from 2008 appx. $24,000. Will cease and desist from any further action on the matter. Will not call, talk, text Janet Ellis or bother in any manner.”
Nunnenkamp admits to signing this letter, but said his total investment was more than $24,000.
Later, the note was dropped off at SFGN’s offices with an added note:
“Thought you might like to know who it is you are really dealing with. As a journalist, I assume you would like the whole story. Besides, threatening people to get $ from them is called EXTORTION.”
By getting money, the writer of the letter is referring to Nunnenkamp seeking $10,000 that he claims is still owed to him.
James “Jim” Ellis — who confessed to a federal charge of fraud on Feb. 1 — allegedly worked alongside George Elia, who’s facing 180 years in prison on similar charges. His victims include many at Wilton Station, an upper-class condominium complex in Wilton Manors. Ellis has admitted to enticing potential investors to put their money with his “accountant” George Elia, who he said got him hefty returns.
These sentiments were reinforced as Ellis lived lavishly, spending big at bars and restaurants on the soon-to-be Ponzi victims. From the beginning, the accusations have spilled over onto Ellis’ daughter, Janet Ellis – a property manager at Wilton Station, but none of them have stuck so far.
“[Janet] told me that when her grandfather died, she got an inheritance and invested it with George,” Nunnenkamp said. Ellis also told people that his inheritance was deposited with Elia. “I was very friendly with Jim. Lunches, dinners. He always treated me well. How could I not trust this man?”
Ellis pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, which could result in five years imprisonment, followed up by three years probation. He is also subject to a quarter of a million dollars in fines. His sentencing date is set for April 11. It’s expected that the U.S. Attorney’s office may ask for reduced penalties, based on Ellis’ early admission of guilt and future cooperation in the trial against co-defendant George Elia. Elia’s trial is now set for early March.
“I’m not thrilled that [Ellis] pleaded guilty. I wanted to testify against him,” Nunnenkamp said. “I don’t hesitate to think that he’s told the court half truths or definite lies. The man is definitely a pathological liar, and so is his daughter.”
But even without testifying, it looks like Nunnenkamp may have been the source of hard evidence that connects both Jim and Janet Ellis to the multi-million dollar fraud. Ellis vehemently maintained to friends – until his plea – that he himself was a victim of Elia.
According to Ellis’ Feb. 1 plea, “Ellis received a blank $14,000 check from investor ‘M.N.,’ which Ellis made payable to International Consultants with ‘J.E. and J.E.’ in the memorandum.”
The M.N. is Michael Nunnenkamp. The first J.E. is Jim Ellis, but who’s the second J.E.? According to Nunnenkamp, it’s Janet Ellis.
“That was the first check that I gave to Jim,” Nunnenkamp said. “He convinced me to take a home equity line of credit on my condo for the $14,000.” When doing so, Nunnenkamp went so far as to list Ellis on the deed to the condo, which he would later sell for $20,000, and hand over all the money to Ellis.
As of press time, SFGN has been unable to reach Janet Ellis for comment.
“I trusted the man completely. I thought he had my back to the end. I knew him from New York. I knew Janet since before she was driving,” Nunnenkamp said. “Imagine how I feel. I thought I was a fairly good judge of character, but not anymore.”
“I just want to see justice done,” he said. “These people are supposed to be victims, too.”
Like others, Nunnenkamp found out that he wasn’t going to be seeing his investment returns in early 2012. It was by then that the gig was up, and various investors were requesting their money back. But for Nunnenkamp, the news brought big concerns.
The same week he found out about the money, he also had his left leg amputated. At that point he was used to getting small returns on his investments. But his bad luck would continue and soon enough Nunnenkamp would be unable to afford his insurance and go on to Medicare and Medicaid.
Luckily for him, Nunnenkamp said he received some payments after the scheme fell apart. In mid-January, George Elia met him at a local CVS and gave him a check for $6,500. That night, he received a call from Jim Ellis.
“‘We’re supposed to be friends,’ [Ellis] told me, and then he said, ‘And I hope you lose your other leg,’” Nunnenkamp told SFGN.
Ellis’ wish may be coming true. HIV-positive, with stage three kidney disease and peripheral artery disease (PAD), Nunnenkamp might soon be losing his second leg, as well.
“When I heard that he pleaded guilty, all bets were off. [Janet] is as guilty as her father, and they are both pathological liars,” Nunnenkamp concluded. “They should each put a roll of toilet paper under their chin for all the shit that runs out of their mouths.”