Investment banker accused of fraud; Holly’s Place survives


By Jessie Marchesseau

“I don’t know what to say. It just really, really, really hurt a lot,” Holly Eimer, owner of Holly’s Place, said of her experience with former financial planner Lori Zoval.

Zoval is the South Lake Tahoe resident indicted last July on charges of wire fraud. The charges stem from an investment fraud scheme allegedly enacted by Zoval while working as an investment banker in Folsom. However, Eimer said she was also swindled out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by Zoval.

Sitting in the common area known as the Rainbow Room at Holly’s Place, Eimer describes how Zoval became a trusted friend and colleague who nearly cost her this business. Holly’s Place is a dog-friendly vacation retreat in South Lake Tahoe. The pet-friendly sanctuary sits on more than an acre in the center of town and consists of four studio units, one cabin and the Rainbow Room which was formerly a barn. The community kitchen, flickering wood stove, casual sofas and ping pong table within make the Rainbow Room a cozy place for guests to hang out, and, of course, dogs are always welcome.

Holly Eimer of South Tahoe is trying to be recover after being swindeled out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Photo/Jessie Marchesseau

Holly Eimer of South Tahoe is trying to be recover after being swindeled out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Photo/Jessie Marchesseau

“I don’t care about making money,” Eimer said. “I just want people to love this place as much as I do.”

This sunny outlook may be what has kept Eimer and Holly’s Place going after losing three cabins to foreclosure, dealing with a tax nightmare and watching her nonprofit, Tahoe Helping Hands, go belly-up. She estimates that hiring Zoval cost her nearly half a million dollars.

Eimer met Zoval through the South Tahoe Chamber of Commerce in 2006. She says she was impressed right from the start and soon hired Zoval as her financial planner. By the end of the year, Eimer had hired Zoval on fulltime to run Tahoe Helping Hands, an organization she set up to make the retreat wheelchair accessible.

“I remember feeling like she might really be interested in my idea,” Eimer said, “because my idea has been, for the last 10 years, making this place wheelchair accessible for people like myself.”

Eimer was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1989, and though she is not in a wheelchair now, she knows she might be someday. For Eimer, the disease has affected her cognitive abilities more so than her physical abilities, something she suspects may have made her an easy target.

“I wanted to help people,” she said. “I wanted to help people because I know what it’s like to have MS.”

Eimer said Zoval convinced her to refinance three of her properties and opened numerous credit card accounts under the name Tahoe Helping Hands. She said Zoval then used the credit cards extensively on trips, hotels and a lavish lifestyle, leaving Eimer with thousands of dollars in unpaid credit card bills.

Zoval was in charge of the overall financials of Tahoe Helping Hands for nearly two years. Then in October 2008, Zoval went on a business trip to San Diego and never returned.

Eimer said she considered Zoval a friend, and had even allowed Zoval to live on the property with her son and boyfriend while she was employed there. However, after Zoval left, Eimer discovered bills, loans, mortgages and taxes had not been paid, and she was facing foreclosure.

Having founded Holly’s Place more than 20 years ago, tears well in Eimer’s eyes as she talks about losing three of her cabins. Her dream of a retreat for people with disabilities is all but gone now. And after what has happened, at 61, Eimer is ready to start slowing down.

“It’s time to downsize and time to rest,” she said, “and I just hope I can financially make it.”

Eimer was more than willing to provide financial documents to the FBI last summer for use in the case against Zoval. Eimer said she does not want Zoval to do this to anyone else.

Zoval pleaded not guilty at the initial hearing six months ago, but the case is still in the pre-trial stage. She is out on bond, and her lawyer, Mark Reichel, said she is “working hard to support her family through a tough time.”

At a hearing before the judge on Feb. 11, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento reported a proposed plea agreement had been offered to Zoval. Details of the agreement have not been made public. Reichel requested a continuance until April 8 to further review the case and continue negotiations on the proposed plea agreement.

If Zoval pleads not guilty at the April 8 hearing, the case will be set for trial at that time. Reichel said he does not know how Zoval will plead.


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Comments (11)
  1. 30yrlocal says - Posted: February 18, 2011

    I’m very sorry for all Holly has had to endure! I meat Zoval in the job I had at the time (when she first came to town) and questioned her intentions/integrity on dealings there. Since she was so nice and outgoing it made those in charge, like Holly, think she was a good person.

    By reading I find that Zoval was only charged for the wire fraud issues in Folsonm and not for swindling Holly, is this true? I hope Holly is able to recoup something but if Zoval is on bond trying to provide for her family it sounds as if its all gone, too bad :(.

  2. grannylu says - Posted: February 18, 2011

    This is appalling. I remember when Zoval first came to Holly’s. I had a friend who worked there and Zoval wanted her Out, right away. It all seemed fishy to me and I hadn’t heard anything since. If it looks like fish, smells like fish, hmmmm?

  3. Carri says - Posted: February 18, 2011

    What an unfortunate experience :( I had no idea about any of this until reading this article. It’s embarrassing to admit too, that I didn’t know about “Holly’s Place” as an option for lodging WITH dogs in Tahoe. I guess one good thing has come of it, now some of us know about these cozy cabins for my family and furry friends to come visit me in Tahoe :)

  4. Tornado says - Posted: February 18, 2011

    Looks like another scumbag has done their thing. It seems like these type of people are more and more typical these days. What is happening to the good ol USA. No doubt they will slap her hand, give her a LITTLE time and she will be on her way to Bermuda with her spoils.

  5. 32yearlocal says - Posted: February 18, 2011

    I am very sorry to hear this. I am going through a similar situation with a couple of kids I rented my cabin to. It is very hurtful when you put your trust in someone or persons and they can hurt and devastate you financially and can only see things in their lives for themselves and thier personal gain.

    Holly do not shut your heart down but be very very careful with those around you.
    God Bless you

  6. grannylu says - Posted: February 18, 2011

    This seems just like Bernie Madoff, only on a smaller scale. I hope they nail this woman. She preys on people in the worst way.

    I’m so sorry that Holly had this experience. It just shows how we have to be very careful about checking the backgrounds of people who handle our money, period!

  7. Billie Jo McAfee says - Posted: February 18, 2011

    I think that Zoval’s picture should be in the paper and not in a small way. We need to know who to shun. This is such a sad thing to have happened in a relatively short amount of time. I hope that Holly Eimer will see justice come her way after helping to give evidence of Zoval’s fraud.

  8. Steve says - Posted: February 18, 2011

    “Thanks, Chamber!”

  9. grannylou says - Posted: February 18, 2011

    You can’t blame the Chamber. That’s unfair.