Past catches up with local man

On the other side of Lake Michigan, James O'Hearn left a lot of financial upheaval in his wake.
Marie Havenga
Jul 6, 2013


Steven Biskupic, then the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, said O'Hearn defrauded more than 100 people in the 1990s. When the courts added up the losses, they totaled more than $2.4 million.

“I prosecuted fraud cases for almost 20 years and Mr. O'Hearn's was one of the worst in terms of its financial impact on individual victims,” Biskupic said.

Many victims lost hundreds of thousands of dollars of retirement and life savings, according to Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports.

Erin, Wis., resident Tom Vigo told the court that he lost $260,000. Vigo said he lost his business and landed in bankruptcy court.

A Milwaukee firefighter lost $85,000 in retirement savings. A Racine man was out $118,000 and a Racine County family was bilked out of more than $100,000.

A crowd of about 40 bilked investors cheered in 1999 when they heard O’Hearn’s six-year prison sentence from U.S. District Judge Charles N. Clevert.

“You hurt a lot of people," Clevert told O’Hearn during the sentencing. "And this court finds your conduct not only a breach of trust but, in my view, reprehensible.”

A Milwaukee man who asked not to be identified was one of those victims.

“(O'Hearn) was a financial planner and he did very well by me, but all of a sudden he was able to manipulate my account and take $100,000 of my mutual funds and use them for himself,” the man said.

The 67-year-old described O'Hearn as a "smooth talker" who was easy to trust.

“The thing that really got me was the way he built confidence in people,” the man said. “He was a real con man. He would look you directly in the eye and tell you everything is great, that he wouldn't deceive you. You know, you trust him.”

When told that O'Hearn raises funds in the Tri-Cities area, the Milwaukee man responded: “Fundraising? Are you kidding me? I would not trust him for a second. That's like the fox running the hen house. No, no, no no, absolutely not. I would not trust him. I know a lot of people in the greater Milwaukee area that would not trust him. I would want to see those books and make sure where he says it's (money) going.”

The investor said he received about half of his losses back through an insurance policy.

O'Hearn said he is still paying $500 per month restitution.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office's financial litigation unit in Milwaukee said she is not allowed to disclose payment history or account balances.

“Every once in a while, I get like a $30 check,” the Milwaukee investor said. “When I get these little crummy checks, it's like, 'Here's a kick in the ribs for you.' I would say I've received less than $1,000.”

The Milwaukee man said he is also concerned to hear that O'Hearn is working with senior citizens.

“There's always people that will tell you he's turning his life around and everything is wonderful,” the man said. “... He puts on a great show, but I would not trust this guy. ... He works the system then shears the sheep.”


River Man

Let's not run this guy out of town yet...but please do not tempt this guy by showing him any of your finances...if you have contact your local bank/broker/children and communicate that he has seen your finances and that you think it would be a good time to change your account numbers just in case. They will be happy to make sure all is in good order.

I am not casting stones but the best way to keep this guy on the right track is not to put him in a position that will tempt him. Help him by taking his classes and paying for the class, if you want to have fun and play, have fun with him but do not mix in your real money with him.

By the way: Classic con move is to loan you a small amount of money to build trust...say the $5 for the lesson.

Love the guy, but do not confuse Christian love with foolishness and make him a repeat offender.


I, too, learned to love pickleball because of Jimmy. However, I came to see a different side of Jimmy when he spread malicious stories about other players and snubbed a group of us who had volunteered our time to work with the handicapped -- all in an effort to grab sympathy and favorable publicity.

But, today's article was a shocker: He told me that retiring from the financial world was based, not on losing his license and a felony conviction, but because no longer wanted to pursue wealth (a blatant lie); Rather than an unwillingness to submit to a background check, he has repeatedly pointed to another popular pickleball player as ruining his working relationship with the Center for Successful Aging. He is not only unwilling to admit wrong-doing and accept punishment for his past crimes, he continues to use his charisma to maneuver his way into the finances of the elderly, and is unable to identify any of the recipients of his generosity and/or document any of his fund-raising efforts.

A changed man? I see a pattern: Jimmy cited "poor record keeping" as the culprit in today's article; a Milwaukee Journal article reported that a "hand injury" was the basis for the inability to produce financial records for the clients he defrauded. It seems that Jimmy O believes that anything said with a tear in his eye, a lump in his throat is acceptable -- with no respect for the truth or the damage it can inflict on others.


Never trust your money with an ex-con convicted of financial theft. Hit the road O'Hearn.


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