A well known Republican donor and real estate mogul who attracted over 1,000 investors into what was allegedly a Ponzi scheme dating back decades died of a heart attack in May, leaving his ex-wife to sort out a major financial mess.

Ken Casey managed to get a lot of residents of the Bay Area and beyond to buy into his too-good-to-be-true investment enterprise. And now their accounts have been frozen, and some are worried they may never see their life savings again — in a situation with echoes of the Bernie Madoff scandal.

As the Chronicle reports, Casey left his businesses, Professional Financial Investors Inc. and Professional Investors Security Fund Inc., to his ex-wife, and it was her legal and financial investigations that uncovered what federal authorities say was a "Ponzi-like" scheme in which new investors' money was used to pay dividends to longtime investors, and much of his property was leveraged to the hilt.

Casey died at age 73 owning around 70 properties worth an estimated total of $550 million, but he owed more than $250 million to investors and was carrying around $400 million in debt — you do the math.

Some investors will likely see some of their money returned to them once this is all sorted out, but probably not before that entire real estate portfolio is sold. One such investor, 63-year-old Robin Schild, tells the Chronicle that he'd invested $250,000 with Casey, only to be so happy with the stated returns that he mortgaged his home to invest more. He was able to pull $200,000 out of his account with no problem at some point, so he's just waiting to find out how much of his remaining investment he'll ever see again.

Casey's ex, Charlene Albanese, gave a statement to the Chronicle saying, "Funds were frozen to preserve them for the investors, except those relating to bank debt and normal operating expenses, and all officers were removed... I am heartbroken and sick to my stomach that so many investors, myself included, have been devastated by Ken’s actions. Like all of the other investors, I am waiting to see what can be preserved."

The companies’ former CEO may have profited from it himself, and he has reportedly reached a settlement with Albanese's lawyers in which he is returning some funds.

The Marin Independent Journal first reported on the federal investigation into Casey's companies in July, as they filed for bankruptcy.