The September letters from the securities commission started raising questions among some investors. By late October, the Clancys asked Mr. Scott to liquidate half their account. He neither carried out the instructions, court documents say, nor responded to the Clancys.
In September or October, the Calverton School comptroller asked Mr. Scott how much notice he needed to liquidate all or part of its investment so that it could purchase some land. Thirty days, he said, and the school wrote to give him that notice.
But by November, Goldie's had filed for bankruptcy.
Lawyers have been circling for months now. All that squabbling, all those aggrieved feelings -- there has to be a lawsuit somewhere.
Last week, attorney David H. Zimmer opened his sprawling Potomac home to any investor who cared to hear his pitch. He offered possible legal strategies; the investors vented anger that builds with every recalled story of their former friend, sipping champagne and flying off to Las Vegas and the Caribbean.
Mr. Zimmer raised possibilities: suing the casinos where some of the money may have been gambled away, suing PaineWebber for whatever its role was in Mr. Scott's dealings.
PaineWebber contends that Mr. Scott's broker, Ms. Willens, knew nothing of any unregistered, illegal or reckless operation of a stock fund. "Neither the firm nor its employees had any knowledge of these activities," said an official statement issued by PaineWebber.
Some investors, though, remain optimistic against all odds, much as they were when Richard Scott first turned their heads with his seductive pitch.
"I heard about another case," a wistful Robert Miller said, "where the people got more money back than they invested."
Even as they look to sue or blame or otherwise lash out at any convenient target, the investors seem to realize where the responsibility begins, if not ends.
"You kick yourself on one side for being taken, and you kick yourself on the other side for the others you told about Richard, so you end up pretty black and blue," C. J. Boggs says ruefully.
"You feel pretty stupid," Mr. Clancy says. "On the other hand, I'm not the only person. He made a credible case as an investment counselor. A lot of people bought into it."
Among the investors are smart people, experts in human nature and those who are either by nature or profession streetwise and knowledgeable. Yet they are in the same boat as the more gullible and innocently wishful of the investors.
Arnold Mysior, a retired investigator with the Office of Strategic Services, the wartime predecessor of the CIA, was dubious at first when his son, George, introduced him to Mr. Scott.
His claims about buying and reselling coins at estate sales "seemed a little funny," Mr. Mysior recalls. "I mean, how many estates could be out there? He would have had to have been going out and killing someone so there could be an estate sale. It didn't make any sense."
But then, even his professional skepticism vanished in the face of a guaranteed return on his $40,000 investment.
"Once a guy guarantees me 15 percent," Arnold Mysior admits, "I don't want to know any more."