FOX19 Investigates: Ponzi schemer's attorney now defending indicted real estate agent
CINCINNATI (FOX19) -
An attorney with experience in big Tri-State cases is now defending former Milford real estate agent Brenda Ashcraft, who was indicted last summer by a grand jury accusing her of swindling investors out of $15 million.
Ben Dusing made his first appearance in federal court this afternoon with Ashcraft at his side. Dusing is a former federal prosecutor and now specializes in defending people accused of white collar crimes. He also represents Glen Galemmo, who recently admitted defrauding investors in a $300 million Ponzi scheme.
Federal prosecutors claim Ashcraft duped people into thinking they were investing in real estate but used the money to support a lavish lifestyle, which they say included buying a $50,000 package of Cincinnati Reds season tickets last year.
Today was supposed to be the day Ashcraft told Judge Sandra Beckwith whether she wanted to plead guilty to the charges against her or proceed to trial. However, her previous attorney dropped out of the case over a possible conflict of interest.
"You may have been aware that today was supposed to be the final pre-trial conference --- at this moment," Judge Beckwith said to Dusing.
He said he was not aware of that.
Dusing then asked the judge to push back today's deadline as well as this month's trial date, calling Ashcraft's case a "document-intensive matter."
Judge Beckwith set the next hearing for March 17. At that point, she'll decide when the trial should begin.
Meanwhile this afternoon, prosecutors revealed they will only call a few of Ashcraft's investors to the stand if the case proceeds to trial.
"We're going to keep it pared down," said assistant U.S. attorney Tim Mangan, adding that he didn't want to put on too many investors for fear of hearing approximately the same story over and over again.
Judge Beckwith did not call on Ashcraft to speak, as she did during last week's tense hearing, where Ashcraft showed-up without a new attorney. At times today, Ashcraft appeared like a bemused spectator, smiling with her head resting on her left hand.
For Dusing, her new lawyer, a lot of homework lies ahead. He's got to pick-up all of the material gathered by Ashcraft's previous attorney and start going through all of the evidence the government claims it has against her, which includes the forensic analysis of two of Ashcraft's computers.