Schrenker taking fraud case 'seriously'

Merrillville native calls charges political
2009-10-11T00:00:00Z 2010-08-13T10:36:00Z Schrenker taking fraud case 'seriously'Christine Kraly - christine.kraly@nwi.com, (219) 662-5335 nwitimes.com

"I'm no Bernie Madoff," Marcus Schrenker said.

The Merrillville High School graduate is accused of bilking more than $1 million from friends and a relative and sits in the Hamilton County, Ind., jail on a $4 million bond.

"It's a hornet's nest," Schrenker told The Times of the case against him. "I'm taking it very seriously."

Indiana prosecutors say Schrenker sold clients a nonexistent foreign currency fund, created false account information and used their money for personal expenses.

"He's essentially convincing people to invest in this (nonexistent) euro account, making a transaction and, once the money is in such a liquid form, depositing into his business account," Hamilton County Deputy Prosecutor Jeff Wehmueller alleged.

Schrenker is represented by Indianapolis lawyer Chadwick Hill. Hill said it is early in the case, and he is still reviewing evidence to prepare for trial.

"I think a lot of people are going to be surprised," Hill said, noting the extensive media coverage of Schrenker's dramatic plane wreck and disappearance.

Schrenker and his financial services businesses came under investigation by the Indiana Securities Division in December.

In January, he downed his million-dollar plane into a Florida swamp, prompting allegations he tried to flee the investigation by faking his death.

Investigators later froze Schrenker's personal and business assets to recover as much money as possible for victims.

Schrenker said he thinks his sometimes lavish appearance drew unintended scrutiny and skepticism of his business dealings.

"God, I wish I had never done that Lexus ad," Schrenker said of an advertisement for a central Indiana car dealership he appeared in with his wife, Michelle, standing in front of a plane and a luxury car.

"Yeah, I liked the finer things in life," he said. "But there were plenty of times I went to work in jeans."

He said he cannot comment much about his case but said he is "genuinely" concerned about his past financial clients.

"I'm sorry for the pain they're under," Schrenker said. "I had failed miserably with the stock market losses. I'm incredibly concerned about the money."

Schrenker said some of his investors were among the first to show him sympathy following his arrest.

"It's been ugly with some (investors)," he acknowledged. But, he added, "It's not the complete picture."

The Times tried unsuccessfully to contact some of Schrenker's 10 named alleged victims.

Schrenker was sentenced in August in Florida to more than four years in prison for intentionally downing his plane and making a false distress call.

A Hamilton County judge last week delayed Schrenker's trial -- in which he faces 11 felony counts, including nine for securities fraud -- from November until March of 2010.

Schrenker predicts he could have a lengthy trial. He said he had more than 11,000 clients while overseeing his firm, Heritage Wealth Management. Wehmueller said by his count, Schrenker may have had no more than 20 clients at the time of his alleged misdeeds.

Schrenker criticized Indiana authorities for pursuing what he said is a politically motivated case.

Wehmueller described Schrenker as a typical perpetrator of fraud.

"As frauds go, it's nothing spectacular," Wehmueller said. "I think he's the one who made it a big deal by his rather dramatic flight from the state of Indiana."

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