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Clermont County Woman Accused in Investment Scheme
A Union Township realtor accused of devising a real estate investment scheme that bilked $15 million from investors pleaded not guilty to federal securities and wire fraud charges Friday. A magistrate released Brenda Ashcraft on her own recognizance.
Ashcraft had little to say as she left federal court with her husband and friends. Local 12 tried to ask Ashcraft what happened to the money. After she refused to answer questions, Angenette Levy asked her "could you at least say anything about the charges or your investors?" Aschraft replied, "No comment. I am innocent." She added, They didnt lose their money.
Several investors attended the arraignment including John Gilbert. The West Chester man said Ashcraft owes him more than $535,000. An investment advisor had recommended Gilbert invest with Ashcraft.
"She all along said, 'I'm not stealing your money, I'm not leaving the country.' And I think she knew in the back of her head from day one that's what she was going to do," Gilbert said.
Mike Fink and his business partner Bruce Van Dyke invested $138,000 with Ashcraft in March. The men haven't received a dime of their money back.
"You could tell in the courtroom. She was real smug and like you're not going to do anything to me. I'm above it," Fink said of Ashcraft after the hearing. Like other investors, Fink and Van Dyke believed they were investing in a Real Estate Investment Trust involving short sale properties. But in a federal officials claim Ashcraft used investors money for her personal use. One investor said Ashcraft purchased a country club membership, Diamond Club seats at Reds Games along with paying private school tuition for her three children and monthly visits to Mexico.
"I wish I would have checked it out further. But, when you got a friend who's a preacher that's made money twice on it you feel pretty good about it," Bruce Van Dyke said. Fink said he has stacks of emails and text messages from Ashcraft promising a return on his investment. He said Ashcraft even claimed to undergo surgery to stall him.
"She gave us our check about 45 days after it was due and she even added a bonus on it...She stopped payment on it."
As a condition of her bond, Brenda Ashcraft cannot open anymore bank accounts or lines of credit. She has also surrendered her passport, cannot obtain a new one and cannot travel outside the Southern District of Ohio.Investor John Gilbert suspects Ashcraft may have hidden investors' money in Mexico since she visited the country so frequently. Id like to see the victims get compensated," Gilbert said.