Milford Realtor Sentenced to 97 Months for Fraudulant Investment Scheme
CINCINNATI – Brenda Ashcraft, 46, of Milford, Ohio was sentenced to 97 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution to 34 victims of a fraudulent investment scheme she operated between 2009 and 2013. The victims lost more than $4.2 million according to government calculations.
Benjamin C. Glassman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Angela L. Byers, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Mark Porter, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service and Jacqueline T. Williams, Director of the Ohio Department of Commerce, announced the sentence imposed today by Senior U.S. District Judge Sandra S. Beckwith.
According to court documents, Ashcraft operated a “Ponzi scheme” through her real estate company called French Manor Properties. Ashcraft would tell prospective investors that she had relationships with various banks which provided her with exclusive access to properties in foreclosure.
Ashcraft said she identified properties that she could purchase for a small amount from the bank, and also had a buyer for a much higher price, allowing for a quick and sizable profit. Ashcraft asked investors to contribute funds towards the initial purchase of the property, and the funds plus a large profit would be returned in approximately 2-3 months. These representations were false.
Bank records show that Ashcraft did not use investment funds to buy any properties. Ashcraft used the money to pay back earlier investors who were seeking the return of their money. Ashcraft also used the stolen funds to pay for personal expenses, including numerous trips to Cancun and Diamond Seat tickets to the Cincinnati Reds.
Ashcraft created a fake employee for her company to handle investor complaints and sent emails to investors and to herself under the fake name. Ashcraft also remotely “wiped” the contents of a cell phone FBI agents seized during the investigation in an attempt to hide the fraud.
“This case is an example of the harm that financial fraud causes,” U.S. Attorney Glassman said. “She preyed on friends, family, and the relationships she developed with other parents at her kids’ school. It's important to punish crimes like this with significant sentences, not only to achieve some measure of justice for the victims, but also to deter others who might be tempted to commit similar crimes.”
Ashcraft pleaded guilty in April 2015 to one count of wire fraud, one count of securities fraud one count of destruction of evidence, and one count of money laundering.
Glassman commended the cooperative investigation of this case by FBI and Secret Service agents, Ohio Department of Commerce, Division of Securities staff, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Mangan and Deputy Criminal Chief Emily Glatfelter, who prosecuted the case.