Former Milford Realtor pleads guilty to running $15 million ponz - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Former Milford Realtor pleads guilty to running $15 million ponzi scheme

Brenda Ashcraft from 2013 (FOX19 NOW File) Brenda Ashcraft from 2013 (FOX19 NOW File)
CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The former Milford real estate agent indicted on charges of swindling investors out of $15 million pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court Wednesday.

Brenda Ashcraft, 45, pleaded guilty to defrauding investors of at least $15 million between 2009 and 2013 in a fraudulent investment scheme to purchase and sell real estate investment trusts known as REITs.

"All of her life she has been basically law abiding and productive with the exception of the conduct in this indictment and again she's going to try to make the victims whole, she's going to try to pay restitution," Ashcraft's attorney Clyde Bennett said.

In court documents, Ashcraft owned and operated French Manor Properties, which she told investors was acting as the REIT Trustee that would “secure residential and commercial real estate at wholesale pricing.” Investors believed that their investments were secured by real estate and Ashcraft promised them 40 percent annual returns on their investments. The representations were false.

Prosecutors say she used the new investor money to pay earlier investors and diverted investor funds to her own personal use and benefit, including a $50,000 investment payment to pay for Cincinnati Reds season tickets.  

According to court documents, Ashcraft at times would send investors checks for returns on their investments but the checks would bounce.  After FBI agents seized her iPhone during a search warrant, she sent a remove wipe command to destroy evidence stored on her phone.

Ashcraft pleaded guilty to one count wire fraud, one count of securities fraud and one count of destruction of evidence, each punishable up to 20 years in prison, and one count of money laundering, which is punishable up to 10 years in prison. 

Bennett is asking the court to not put Ashcraft in prison because of her health issues. 

"There is a pending motion that was filed by me that's requesting Judge Beckwith to release Ms. Ashcraft from federal custody so that she can address some of the health care issues," Bennett said.

Ashcraft is being held in the Butler County Jail where she awaits her sentence.  Her sentence could leave her behind bars for as long as 70 years and make restitution virtually impossible.

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