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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

After the Pyramids' Fall, Mental Patients Lose Big

Among the millions of people who lost their life's savings in collapsed pyramid sales schemes such as MMM, some of the most unfortunate were mental patients, duped by the lavish promises of wealth from hard-hitting television advertising.

Andrei Snegiryov, chief doctor of psychiatric outpatient clinic No. 1 in southwest Moscow, said in an interview with The Moscow Times that several of his patients had become obsessed by the advertising campaigns. "They get hold of the idea from these ads that they have to buy shares and end up investing everything they have in these companies."

One of his patients, a 28-year-old man, had bought 60 million rubles worth (about $20,000) of shares in the joint stock company MMM, using money from the sale of his parents' flat in Ukraine. In July MMM stopped redeeming its shares, leaving millions of its shareholders, including Snegiryov's patient, holding worthless pieces of paper.

Snegiryov said when his patient found out about his loss, he had become seriously depressed and threatened to commit suicide. "He told his mother that if the company did not give his money back there was no sense in him going on," he said. "His mother begged MMM to pay off just a couple of million to calm her son down and to save his life."

The clinic's administration had written to MMM asking the company to pay off a part of the patient's investment, but had so far received no reply. The patient was still alive and his state of depression had improved -- largely because MMM shares had again started to go up.

Another of Snegiryov's patients, a 61-year-old woman, had suffered a nervous breakdown after putting her savings of 150,000 rubles into the Russian House of Selenga investment company, which ceased trading in August. "She entrusted her hard-earned money to this company and all she got out of it was a serious deterioration to her state of mind."