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SALT LAKE CITY -- Two years ago, you would have looked at Andrea Merriman and thought she had everything -- a happy marriage of 20 years, a healthy family and wealth.
But in one moment that all changed, and Andrea learned her husband had been living a lie.
"I thought I was not just living my nightmare, but a nightmare version of a Hollywood movie," she said.
She, her husband, Shawn, and their four children lived in a posh Denver suburb. Shawn, a former stockbroker, ran a successful investment company for 16 years and served as bishop of their LDS ward. Andrea was a stay-at-home mom.
Then on March 18, 2009, Shawn sat her down and dropped a bomb.
"He said, ‘My company is a sham,'" Andrea recalls. "I said, ‘What?' And he said, ‘My company is a sham.'"
Shawn had been running a $20 million Ponzi scheme and had turned himself into federal agents. All of their assets were seized and repossessed by the government. Shawn was headed to prison.
"When you find out that you've lost your entire life, I think it's incomprehensible until it happens to you," Andrea said. "It feels like you've been thrust into a big black hole that there is going to be no way out of."
If your world gets destroyed, build a new one -- and build it better. It might not be the same world, might not be as big a world, but you can still build a world and create a life that is just as good, if not better than the old one that you lost.
Andrea and the kids were left with nothing. Shawn was sentenced to 12 years behind bars.
Suddenly Colorado became a hostile place. Shawn's victims, neighbors and even friends directed anger at Andrea and the kids. So when she found a job in Utah, they moved and started over.
"No matter what you've lost, you still have a lot left. You just have to look at what you're left with and use it to rebuild," she said.
The money is gone, but they say it doesn't matter.
"It doesn't cost any money to be happy," Andrea said.
The children are amazingly resilient. All four kids are excelling at school.
"Hardships come and you just need to move on, cause life goes on," said 11-year-old Matt.
Andy, the oldest, just graduated from high school after being named his school's most inspirational athlete.
"Our world fell apart. We got through that, so I know I can get through anything else that life throws at me," he said.
It's an unexpected life, but it's still a good one.
"If your world gets destroyed, build a new one -- and build it better," Andrea said. "It might not be the same world, might not be as big a world, but you can still build a world and create a life that is just as good, if not better than the old one that you lost."
Andrea divorced Shawn. She has no contact with him, though the children get periodic phone calls and letters.
All say they've forgiven their father and have moved on.