BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — Police say a Washington state man running a Ponzi scheme disguised as a financial planning firm bilked people in four states out of $500,000 — in some cases, their life savings.

The Bellingham Herald reports that David P. Thomas of Bellingham was booked into jail Wednesday for investigation of first-degree theft and securities fraud.

Police said many of the 17 victims they identified are elderly and that they included residents of Bellingham and Spokane, as well as San Antonio, Texas; Brigham City, Utah, and Ashland, Oregon.

Investigators said the victims thought they were buying bonds, but Thomas spent the money on casinos, restaurants and personal expenses.

Thomas' firm, called Insured Income Solutions, promoted ways to eliminate debt and retire on tax-free income. A message left by The Associated Press on the company's voice mail Thursday was not immediately returned.

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