A gang of very disgruntled German pensioners who lost $4m in savings in a Florida property investment scheme allegedly decided the best way to get their cash back was to kidnap and torture the financial adviser responsible.
German-American James Amburn, 56, was subjected to a harrowing ordeal which began last Tuesday when two of the "Geritol Gang" - so named by German police in honour of an arthritis drug - attacked him with a zimmer frame outside his Speyer home.
The pair, aged 60 and 74, bound their target with tape and bundled him into the boot of an Audi A8. He recounted: "As I went into my home I was jumped from the rear and struck.
"Then they bound me with masking tape until I looked like a mummy. It took them quite a while because they ran out of breath. When they loaded me into the car I thought I was a dead man."
The investors then drove 300 miles to a house in Chieming on the shores of Lake Chiemsee in Bavaria, belonging to one of the kidnappers and his 79-year-old wife, where they incarcerated Amburn in the cellar.
At this point two retired doctors, aged 63 and 66, joined the group and the alleged torture began. Amburn continued: "I was led into the cellar. I saw a folding bed and a WC reserved for me. They immediately went on about their money. I told them what I had told them before, that due to market conditions, unfortunately it was gone.
"I was struck. Again and again they threatened to kill me. The fear of death was indescribable."
Amburn claims he was "chained like an animal", burned with cigarettes, beaten, hit with a chair leg and suffered two broken ribs during the ordeal, which ended when he told his captors he could sell some securities in Switzerland to raise cash.
The gang agreed to allow him to send a fax to the relevant bank, to which Amburn added a plea for help. He said: "It was disguised as a policy. I wrote 'call. po-lice' and they didn't notice it."
Unconvinced his fax had done the trick, Amburn made a break for it on Friday when he was allowed out of the cellar for a cigarette break. The Geritol Gang pursued the fleeing adviser in the Audi, and one persuaded passers-by to recapture their prisoner by shouting: "He's a burglar!"
Mercifully for Amburn, someone in the Swiss bank finally spotted his message, and on Sunday 40 armed police stormed the house. The victim was found in his underwear.
Volker Ziegler, the chief public prosecutor for nearby Traunstein, described the pensioners as "angry" at having lost the cash invested in Amburn's investment company, Digitalglobalnet.
Ziegler described the money as coming from the "black" economy, meaning it hadn't been declared to the German revenue authorities.
Members of the Geritol Gang face up to 15 years' prison on charges of illegal hostage taking, torture and grievous bodily harm. ®
Thanks to Eugene Meany for the tip-off.