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Financial planner leaves problems behind

Financial planner Gail Gentry, whose clients lost millions of dollars in limited partnerships that went bad, closed her St. Petersburg office this week and is now selling investments in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Gentry, formerly known as Gail Griseuk, has resumed use of her maiden name but continues to use TEI Strategies, one of the business names she used in St. Petersburg.

Some St. Petersburg clients who paid her in advance for financial planning services were miffed to receive a letter from her this week saying that she was closing her office. Agatha Hobbs of Seminole said she paid $200 in advance fees and received no refund.

The Florida Comptroller's Office, which regulates the sale of investments in the state, says it has received complaints about Gentry and has been investigating her since 1988. But it has never taken action against her.

However, the state has declined to approve her request for a securities license, leaving her unable to legally sell securities in Florida since January 1992.

Gentry's letter to clients said that it was no longer financially feasible to keep the St. Petersburg office open. She declined to comment for this story, saying she considered the Times on par with the National Enquirer and wouldn't want to speak with a newspaper like that.

Gentry, 45, specializes in selling limited partnerships, mutual funds and insurance products to elderly clients.

During the mid-1980s, she made as much as $750,000 a year in fees and commissions, she said in a court hearing. Then the partnerships she sold began going sour. Many of her clients, who often sold blue-chip stocks and municipal bonds to follow her advice, ended up in investments that are now worthless or that have stopped paying dividends, leaving them strapped for cash.

Over the years, more than two dozen of her clients have sued her or filed arbitration claims against her, claiming that she defrauded them by misrepresenting high-risk partnerships as "riskless, ultraconservative investments" that were "as good as CDs."

Among those making claims against her are her own parents, Gertrude and Marvin Gentry, who lost $16,000 in bad investments she made for them. Some investors lost more than $200,000 apiece. Their efforts to recoup their losses were thwarted when she filed for bankruptcy protection in 1989. The case is still pending.

Although she was living in Florida at the time, Gentry became licensed to sell securities in Arizona in 1987, according to state records there.

Last year she registered in Arizona as a broker for two firms, Aragon Financial Services of Santa Ana, Calif., and Investment Securities Corp. of Oklahoma City.