In the beginning, there was International Loan Network.

ILN was Melvin Ford's initial foray into the securities world. He took in between $80 million and $100 million in what a federal judge and the Securities and Exchange Commission said in 1991 was really a giant pyramid scheme.

Ford held revival-like meetings where checks were given out to some people and others were encouraged to invest. When the SEC shut down ILN, about 15,000 participants came forward to claim money they had invested with Ford.

Real people are still reeling from that scam.

"There were tragic stories," said Frank Dicello, the court-appointed bankruptcy trustee who shut down Ford's operations and sold the assets. "People would call and say that if they didn't get their $8,000 back they were going to lose their home."

"So much money passed through this operation," Dicello said. "A lot of money was spent on travel [as Ford promoted ILN across the country]. A lot was paid back to people in the pyramid who were bringing others in."

In addition, Ford had a few side investments, such as the bar and strip club in Baltimore that he bought. Dicello sold its liquor license. Ford also bought low-income housing that was virtually worthless when Dicello sold it.

In the end, Dicello said, he was able to collect only about 3 percent to 4 percent of investors' original investment.

Prosecutors, securities regulators and postal agents spent a lot of time going through the various records Dicello collected several years ago, he said.

"I always expected there would be a grand-jury indictment," Dicello said. "I'm stunned. I can't believe he's doing it again."