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Realtor Charged In Investment Fraud
A federal Grand Jury has indicted a Union Township realtor accusing her of swindling investors of $15 million by operating a Ponzi Scheme.
Brenda Ashcraft faces charges of securities and wire fraud. Ashcraft owned a company called French Manor Properties. The U.S. Attorney's Office said Ashcraft told investors they would receive a return of 40% on their investments through a Real Estate Investment Trust. Instead, Ashcraft used investors' money to fund a lavish lifestyle including trips to Mexico, a membership to Terrace Park County Club and Diamond Club seats at Great American Ball Park.
"I hope she does time in jail for this," said John Gilbert, an investor who said he was taken for $535,000. He added, "She came across as a model citizen, married with three children, living in a nice subdivision, a member of the country club."
Gilbert said an investment advisor recommended Ashcraft to him in 2011. He invested some money and received a return. But, in 2012, the checks Ashcraft wrote to Gilbert started to bounce.
"It ended up that it was very difficult to collect. It was several hundreds of thousands of dollars," Gilbert said.
Gilbert said he found out last year the FBI was investigating Ashcraft and that his money might be gone.
"I was devastated. Money I had planned for, my kids' college education, savings I was using to run my business, this woman had basically conned out of me. "
Gilbert said Ashcraft wouldn't allow investors to have contact with one another and became hostile if he or others questioned her about their money. He played a voicemail from December 2012 in which Ashcraft chastised him for asking about his investment.
"As far as the bonus goes, yes, I am giving you that. You kind of seem unappreciative. Nobody else is asking for that, nobody else is expecting it," Ashcraft said.
Gilbert said Ashcraft also used investors' money to fund a company she owns that makes clothing for dogs. He's concerned she's hidden investors' money.
"Come to find out she was making monthly trips to Mexico. And, I'm concerned the money is in Mexico. I'm concerned we won't recover any of our funds," Gilbert said. The single father of three added, "I'm hoping that she works with the FBI and comes clean and tells the FBI, rather than paying tax payer dollars for a year and half, to find out what happened."
It's not clear whether others may be under investigation for helping Ashcraft secure investors.
If convicted, she faces 50 years in prison and more than $5 million in fines.