A longtime investment adviser in Omaha accused by state regulators of misappropriating more than $1.35 million of client funds killed himself Saturday, Omaha police said.
About 12:05 p.m., officers were alerted to a black Chevrolet Tahoe occupied by a man parked near 56th and F Streets.
The officer who responded saw a man standing next to the Tahoe behind the building at 5509 F St. As the officer got out of his cruiser, police said, the man, Jerome P. “Joe” Bonnett Jr., 51, shot himself in the head.
Omaha Fire Department medics were called to the scene and took Bonnett to the Nebraska Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Bonnett ran the Bonnett Wealth Management investment firm. Two law enforcement officials familiar with the two-month-old ongoing investigation have said that the losses to Bonnett’s investment clients have reached $2 million. The FBI has joined the state in the investigation, the officials said.
The allegations go back at least nine years and have “all the makings of a Ponzi scheme” — in which someone takes money from new clients to replenish money owed to other clients — the officials said.
Bonnett had been charged with two felonies: first-degree forgery and a fraudulent insurance charge, Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said in a World-Herald article from Friday.
Kleine said he filed the initial charges to try to ensure that Bonnett remained in the Omaha area. Prosecutors said they asked a judge to set “significantly high” bail. The judge set Bonnett’s bail at $100,000 and ordered him to surrender his passport. He paid $10,000 — 10 percent of the bail amount — and had been released from jail.
Bonnett managed 83 investment accounts totaling about $47.5 million in assets, state officials have said.
The State Department of Insurance, which oversees investment advisers involved in securities, alleged in a civil lawsuit that since at least 2007, Bonnett had used clients’ money to pay himself, his mortgage and a restaurant startup loan and to replenish funds in other clients’ accounts.
Bonnett’s assets had been frozen during the investigation. He and his wife were allowed to withdraw $10,000 a month for living expenses.
The Omaha Police Department’s Officer-Involved Investigation Team is investigating the Saturday incident, which was partially recorded on cruiser video. Police said the video evidence verifies the timeline of events that took place and is consistent with the statements given by the responding officer.
The investigation also found that the anonymous 911 call was made using a phone that belonged to Bonnett.
The incident is considered an in-custody death because a police officer was present, Omaha police said in a press release. In accordance with state law, a grand jury will be convened to investigate what occurred.