Schrenker sentenced to over four years in prison

Marcus Schrenker

Chris Proffitt/Eyewitness News

Pensacola, Florida - A federal judge Wednesday sentenced Marcus Schrenker to over four years in prison for crashing his plane while trying to fake his own death.

The former Geist money manager took off from central Indiana and bailed out of his plane in Harpersville, Alabama on January 11th. The unmanned plane eventually crashed in Quincy, Florida, near Tallahassee.

Schrenker could have received up to 26 years in federal prison. Instead, a Florida federal judge sentenced him to 51 months and ordered him to repay nearly $900,000 for the plane that he intentionally crashed over Florida on January 11th in a botched attempt to fake his death.

Schrenker, 38, sobbed and gave a rambling speech during the four-hour sentencing hearing. He apologized to air traffic controllers, his family, and residents of the Florida Panhandle town where his plane went down near some homes.

"To this day I cannot believe I could do something so reckless and selfish," he told U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson on Wednesday. "I believe a divine force gently put the aircraft down in the swamp. It is my hope the residents of Milton feel my pain. If someone had gotten hurt, I do not know what I would do."

Schrenker pleaded guilty in June to parachuting out of his plane which later crashed in Florida. Despite insisting that he was suffering from mental problems in the days and weeks leading up to the flight, psychiatrists found Schrenker competent to stand trial.

The judge in the case recommended that Schrenker be transferred to a federal detention facility in Indiana, where he also faces charges related to his business dealing.

On Wednesday, Hamilton County prosecutors filed have filed nine additional charges, all counts of securities fraud, against Schrenker for a total of 11 charges he now faces. Schrenker could be transferred back to Indiana in a matter of days.

If convicted, Schrenker could get up to 88 years in prison.

"He's facing 11 total counts. All of them C Felonies with a possible sentence of two to eight years, so it could be 88 years," said Jim Gavin, spokesman.

The Indiana Secretary of State's office, which moved to freeze Schrenker's and his estranged wife Michelle's assets, said on Wednesday that Michelle Schrenker, who claimed to be the chief financial officer of the couple's company, is not being charged at this time.

According to documents filed in Hamilton County Superior Court, Schrenker defrauded his victims by selling them an unauthorized foreign currency fund; creating and maintaining false account information; and using client funds for his own personal use.

Schrenker and his financial services businesses originally became the targets of an investigation by Secretary Rokita's Indiana Securities Division in December 2008.

Schrenker must pay $34,649 to the US Coast Guard, which conducted a search after his fake distress call.  He was also ordered to pay Harley Davidson Credit Corp. $871,387 for the aircraft.

The case has been under investigation by the Securities Division's Prosecution Assistance Unit, which specifically investigates possible criminal securities violations.

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Schrenker's estranged wife, father and stepmother watched stoically through the hearing as he cried loudly.

Judge Vinson rejected Schrenker's request for a shorter sentence, saying he agreed with a prison psychiatrist who diagnosed him as a narcissist who lacked empathy and desired attention from women.

Under federal guidelines, the judge could have given him an additional year in prison.

His wife filed for divorce Dec. 30, a day before Indiana police served a search warrant on his home and office. They seized computers, financial documents and evidence of recent document shredding, all within days of him losing a $533,000 judgment to an insurance company.

Schrenker was an amateur daredevil pilot whose high-flying lifestyle included planes, luxury cars and a 10,000-square-foot home in an upscale neighborhood known as "Cocktail Cove," outside Indianapolis where affluent boaters often socialized.

Schrenker said Wednesday that his life was out of control and that he didn't know what he was doing when he got in his plane.

"I was melting down," he said. "My wife tried to take me to a hospital. Skip (his counselor) did too and I turned them down and I just think that if I hadn't been so egotistical and narcissistic, I wouldn't have wasted everyone's time."

But U.S. Attorney Tiffany Eggers said Schrenker's behavior was part of a lifelong pattern of lies and manipulation.

She showed a videotaped deposition in a 2008 lawsuit in which Schrenker told attorneys he was seriously ill with multiple sclerosis, something that was never revealed in any of his flight
or prison records.

He lied separately to his stepmother and father in recent jail phone calls. He also told a girlfriend he was entering a witness protection program and wouldn't be returning to Indiana. He later sent her a cryptic text message asking her to meet him at a place they had vacationed in the Florida Keys.

Eggers pointed to careful steps Schrenker took to stash a motorcycle in an Alabama storage unit near where he bailed out of the plane, make a false driver's license and take cash with him.

"This was the next logical step for this man, the gig was up and he decided to fake his own death," she said.

Vinson ordered Schrenker transferred to a federal prison in Indiana.

See an archive of stories related to this case.