Broker Charles Almy’s wife Katharine was involved in one of Albemarle’s longest—and most bizarre—lawsuits. She sued author John Grisham, St. Anne’s-Belfield development director Alan Swanson, and his wife Donna for emotional distress from accusing her of writing anonymous letters and for going through confidential school files to obtain a sample of her handwriting.
Now Almy finds himself in the defendant seat, accused by a client who alleges Almy pillaged the retirement funds he trusted him to invest.
Afton resident Tom Oakley, 73, admits he knows nothing about investing. He ran a sod business for years, which is how he met Almy. “Charles said he was a stockbroker,” says Oakley. “I had some money coming to me and he said he could help.”
More important to Oakley, both men were veterans of the Vietnam War. “There was this bond,” says Oakley. “I trusted him.”
Around November 2011, Oakley gave $32,000 to Almy to invest, according to the complaint filed in Albemarle Circuit Court.
He gave Almy $26,000 to buy Costco stock in April 2017, but Almy never made the purchase, says Oakley, who has watched the price of the stock increase since.
At a veterans event in October 2017, Oakley says Almy told him he was going to receive a check for $38,000. Unbeknownst to Oakley, that money came from shares in his brokerage account that Almy had sold, says the lawsuit. Oakley says he gave the funds to Almy to invest, but that didn’t happen.
By January 2018 when they met for breakfast, Almy said he was down on his luck and asked to borrow $1,500, says Oakley. Oakley began to lend money to his veteran pal, even taking out a line of credit, he says.
When he lent Almy $15,000, Oakley says he asked Almy to sign a promissory note. “He kept losing the agreement,” says Oakley.
Finally, on a 2019 trip to Mexico, Oakley says he had time to reflect and surmised, “I think I’m getting screwed.”
When he returned, he gathered his paperwork and went to Almy’s employer, Rede Wealth, which is also named in the lawsuit. “They said they’d make everything right,” but ultimately balked at a settlement, says Oakley.
According to the complaint, Rede co-founders Matt Dawson and Steve McNaughton had worked with Almy at other firms and should have known he had four earlier investment violations that involved senior citizens and which are a matter of public record.
Richmond attorney Todd Ratner says, “Rede Wealth vigorously denies the allegations and will continue to defend itself and the firm’s reputation against these false allegations.”
The company filed a lawsuit against Almy in January.
Almy told C-VILLE he wanted to consult his attorney before speaking. When asked who the lawyer is, Almy said he blanked. “I’ve forgotten his name.”
“What hurts the most is he broke the bond,” says Oakley, who compares the experience to being in combat. “I felt Charles abandoned me. He took advantage of me and used me.”
Oakley wants $5.25 million plus the nearly $100,000 he says he lent Almy. A trial is scheduled for February 16, 2021.