It started with an antiques store and auction house called The Golden Oldies in the Georgetown Plaza, owned by Joseph Cain.
And even though Cain was sentenced Monday to a total of six years behind bars for a con he was running out of the store, the matter won't be over while prosecutors try to track down his assets to help his victims.
The 42-year-old Cain bilked his victims of nearly $400,000 that prosecutors are aware of so far. And when he sat down to talk to probation officers for a pre-sentence investigation, Cain claimed $150,000 in assets and $500,000 in income last year, according to Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Tim McCaulay.
Three of those victims testified Monday in Allen Superior Court before Cain was sentenced. All spoke with disgust at having fallen for his scheme. And they seemed torn between wanting him punished and wanting access to whatever money he might have squirreled away somewhere.
According to court documents, Cain defrauded a number of victims in a variety of ways – failing to pay for items he sold on consignment, writing bad checks in large amounts, or keeping money given to him in what the victims thought were legitimate transactions.
Jeff Sedlmeyer lent Cain tens of thousands of dollars in the 14-odd months he was friends with him. Loans were never repaid and antiques he placed in the store went missing.
“He doesn't know what happened to them,” Sedlmeyer said after the hearing. “But he was very fond of them. I think I know where they went.”
In an unusual move, McCaulay asked Allen Superior Judge John Surbeck to delay sending Cain straight to prison. Instead, he asked for, and received, a hearing in early September to determine whether Cain may have stashed whatever assets and income he admitted to probation officers.
During the hearing, Cain's victims described the anxiety the thefts had caused, such as increased health problems, delayed medical treatment and even a postponed wedding.
Robert Willey, who was never paid for a rare Civil War-era revolver and lost money in a gold-selling scheme, figured Cain would never worry about money because what he stole was likely stashed somewhere.
As the victims, many of them older, spoke about what Cain did, those handcuffed alongside him in the courtroom seemed awed and disgusted by his behavior. One, awaiting sentencing for a robbery, even covered his face with his hand as Sedlemeyer described how much money he'd lost.
Cain swore he wanted to make amends for what he had taken, and help his victims' recovery. But he was quick to point out that the $150,000 in assets was a home occupied by his wife and children.
Surbeck piped up, questioning the felon's commitment to making things right.
The judge granted McCaulay's request, setting another hearing for Sept. 13 and asking McCaulay and his investigator to help find and secure whatever assets may be available somewhere.
Surbeck expressed skepticism at the ability to recover any money, but tried to hold on to optimism.
“Hope springs eternal,” he said, wryly.
In three separate cases, Cain was charged with corrupt business influence, check fraud, multiple counts of theft, receiving stolen property.
As part of a plea agreement, one of the theft cases was dismissed, as were the charges of receiving stolen property.
The total sentence was 12 years in prison, with six years suspended and four years to be served on probation. Cain was ordered to pay $372,140 in restitution.
Cain has multiple felony convictions in other northeast Indiana counties for similar crimes. There are several civil cases pending against him as well.
According to Sedlmeyer, the store transferred seamlessly to Cain's parents, who claimed they own all the items within it. An attempt to reach them at the store, now JJ Auctions, was unsuccessful Monday.