Westerville Man Pleads Guilty in Million Dollar Investment Fraud Scheme
COLUMBUS – Mark Preston French, 42, of Westerville, Ohio has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of wire fraud in connection to investment fraud scheme involving more than $1 million.
Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio and Angela L. Byers, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), announced the plea entered on Friday before U.S. District Chief Judge Edmund A. Sargus, Jr.
According to court documents, French worked as a stockbroker between 1998 and 2013. An elderly woman from Greenville, Pennsylvania, who believed French was an investment advisor, was his client between 2000 and 2012. In 2008, French advised the elderly woman to begin investing in precious metals.
In 2009, French advised his elderly client to open joint checking and savings accounts with him so he could purchase and sell precious metals on her behalf. French instructed his client deposit funds totaling more than $1.3 million into these joint accounts. French used the funds to purchase and sell gold and silver with the Tulving Company in Newport Beach, California. French deposited a portion of the proceeds received from the sale of the elderly client’s precious metals to the Tulving Company, but also embezzled $120,414.80 of the proceeds for his own purposes.
In September 2012, French advised the elderly client told French she wanted to take physical possession of her gold and silver, which French was storing in his Westerville home. Instead, French sold a majority of the precious metals back to Tulving Company, returning $1,062,820 back to his client, but keeping part of the proceeds for himself. He also kept 11,942 ounces of silver purchased with his client’s funds, which was valued at more than $400 thousand.
French faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250 thousand for his crimes. He must pay restitution to the elderly victim of his fraud scheme as part of his plea agreement. French will be sentenced at a later date.
U.S. Attorney Stewart commended the investigation by FBI, as well as Assistant United States Attorney Dale Williams, who is representing the United States in this case.