When news hit Ohio that one of the state's native sons was the U.S. soldier behind the alleged massacre of 16 Afghan civilians on March 11 — a piece of extremism that's pretty much dropped the 11-year war effort to an all-time, My Lai low — grief and shock were among the grab bag of emotions on the home front. (Not to mention a
lot of heavy breathing from certain TV stations, the ones who airlifted TV crews to Brunswick in order find out why someone from Northeast Ohio would pull the trigger on a group of civilians, when, in fact, not only was Brunswick never confirmed as the shooter's hometown, it was incorrect. But we digress.)
The accused solider — 38-year-old Sgt. Robert Bales — doesn't currently live in the Buckeye State. But he was born and raised in Norwood, outside Cincinnati; since the government released the shooter's name, the small town has been ground zero as the media shakes down Bales' bio for clues to the alleged atrocity. As the New York Times reported in lengthy story over the weekend, many remember Bales as charming jock, a “well-regarded” “solid-guy” who joined the military in his late 20s after September 11th.
But that Golden Boy back story some grit on it, according to new reports. Before joining the Army in 2001, Bales had a previous life as a financial adviser, a career that crash landed in 2000 when an elderly Ohio couple accused him of bilking them out of almost a million dollars. Although no criminal charges were filed in the case, a hefty judgment did land on Bales' back — possibly contributing to the vague “financial pressures” reports guesstimate may have contributed his bad mental state.
Locally, Newsnet5 is carrying the story, although the original piece is coming from Cincinnati's WCPO. According to the report, the Liebschners, a couple from Columbus, were once Bales' clients. The Norwood native was in the financial services industry for June 1996 to December 2000, so says documents filed with FINRA.
Mrs. Liebschner said that her husband was ill, so she decided to sell some of their stocks through Bales' company to pay for medical fees.
She says that's when Bales started pocketing their money.
By May 2000, the couple filed a complaint against Bales. He joined the military almost a year later. The matter didn't go to arbitration until 2003. Bales was not present at the hearing because he couldn't be located — now we know he was in active military service. The hearing sided with his former clients. According to the disposition details on FINRA's web site, Bales was found to be “engaged in fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, churning, unauthorized trading, and unsuitable investments.”
When all was said and done, he was found personally liable for about $1.5 million in damages. The couple haven't seen a dime, again, because they could never locate Bales.
Obviously, a bad broker scheme takes a backseat to war crimes, and who's to say how Bales' financial dealings contributed, or didn't, to whatever combination of pressure and pain chased him over the edge. But almost every report we've seen on his Ohio roots leans pretty heavy on the say-it-ain't-so-never-Robby line, when his pre-military record has some notable blemishes.
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