Former Westlake Investment Advisor Convicted of Stealing More Than $9.3 Million from Clients in Ponzi Scheme

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Acting U.S. Attorney Michelle M. Baeppler announced that a federal jury returned guilty verdicts today against Defendant Raymond A. Erker, 50, of Avon, Ohio, following a seven-day trial before U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland.  Erker, a former investment advisor, was convicted of stealing more than $9.3 million from clients in a Ponzi scheme.

Also charged in this matter were co-defendants Kevin Krantz, 56, and Tara M. Brunst, 47, both of Olmsted Falls.  Both Krantz and Brunst previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme and are awaiting sentencing.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, from January 2013 through July 2018, Erker, Krantz and Brunst conspired together to devise a scheme that stole $9,366,976.37 from at least 54 investors.  As part of the scheme, Erker sold investments to clients that he misrepresented as annuities and senior secured notes with no risk of loss and with a guaranteed rate of return. 

Court documents also state that Erker and the co-conspirators, without the approval or consent of investors, diverted funds to other entities that they controlled and their personal bank accounts.  Additionally, Erker failed to disclose to clients that he maintained substantial or limited ownership interests in companies receiving investments from the scheme.  To keep up with promised rates of return, Erker falsely represented that payments to previous investors were rates of return and interest when the payments were actually new investor funds, the defining characteristic of a Ponzi scheme.

To avoid detection, Erker and his co-defendants set up office fronts in Delaware and Nevada, contracted with call centers and created false websites and account statements that purported to show investor account balances.

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Erker was also convicted of making a false statement under oath.  On October 9, 2019, while under oath in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Erker stated that he disclosed to investors that he owned the companies the investors gave him money to invest in, when in fact, Erker knew that statement to be false.

This investigation was conducted by the Ohio Department of Commerce Division of Securities, the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Westlake Police Department.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian McDonough and Kathryn Andrachik.

If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311).  This U.S. Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim and identifying relevant next steps.  Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals on a case-by-case basis.  Reporting is the first step.  Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses.  The hotline is staffed seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. eastern time. English, Spanish and other languages are available.

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