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Who Said That?

"Do regulators want the witnesses to die?"

-- Certified tax preparer Bob Ferreira

Two brokerage firms fired Neal Smalbach. Dozens of customers complained that he'd sold them risky and unsuitable investments. Federal regulators fined him. The state still has him under investigation.

And yet, even after losing his securities license in 2008, Smalbach used a loophole in securities law to sell stock in a shaky Tampa startup, often to retirees in their 80s and 90s on Social Security.

Today that venture, Transfer Technology International Corp., is flailing, its stock selling for less than a penny a share. Smalbach, who lives in Palm Harbor, is no longer with TTI but won't say what he's doing. He still has an insurance license, which allows him to sell certain types of annuities.

At least a dozen elderly investors, meanwhile, are holding virtually worthless TTI stock for which they paid nearly $1 million. They're kicking themselves for trusting Smalbach, who ingratiated himself over their kitchen tables with talk of his family, his wealth and his concern for their well-being.

"He had the gift of gab," said Grace Bouma, an 87-year-old widow in Spring Hill who lost at least $130,000 in TTI. "Now I just have Social Security. My husband must be churning in his grave."

Read more at the St. Petersburg Times.