Schrenker to plead guilty to fraud charges

Marcus Schrenker

Hamilton County - Marcus Schrenker will spend the prime of his life in jail, even with a plea bargain.

The former Geist money manager has worn jailhouse orange for more than a year, that entire time claiming innocence. That's about to change. Schrenker, accused of stealing hundreds of thousands from investors, will plead guilty in exchange for less jail time.

Schrenker was supposed to go on trial in Hamilton County in October. The plea agreement, if accepted by the judge, means there will be no trial. His jail time would be reduced from a potential of 90 years behind bars to ten.

Schrenker is pleading guilty to five counts of securities fraud and would have to pay $633,000 to investors. Schrenker's attorney says his client wants to put this episode behind him.

"What is most important to him is getting to see his children and getting this matter behind him," said Chadwick Hill, Schrenker's attorney. "He's having a rough go, he hasn't seen his children in a long time.

"He's been in jail as opposed to Department of Corrections for about a year now which is somewhat unique for one individual to stay in a county jail for a year pending resolution of their case. But he's holding together."

In order to move on, for the first time Schrenker is admitting he defrauded investors, essentially stealing their money to support his lifestyle. In January 2009 he crashed his plane in the Florida panhandle and parachuted to safety.

After being caught by US marshals, he claimed the crash was an accident. But authorities have maintained he was trying to fake his own death faced with a mountain debt. He was sentenced to four years in prison on those charges.

In addition to spending ten years in prison for fraud, Schrenker also has to pay back his victims. It's all detailed in the plea agreement, which calls for restitution of more than $22,000 for one investor and $100,000 for another. One former client is owed $159,000. Seven different victims are owed a total of more than $633,000.

Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita opened the probe into Schrenker's financial operations almost two years ago. He said it's about more than the 10 to 14 years he could be sentenced to in prison.

"Because he is such a young man and maybe getting in at 50 to 55 years of age, he has a lot of time to become a productive citizen, go back to work and be able to pay back the victims," he said.

Two months ago, the former money manager's assets were liquidated and sold to the highest bidder. His water-front home on Geist Reservior was sold and the money was earmarked for those who lost cash in Schrenker's scheme.

Under the terms of the deal, Schrenker must also "refrain from owning, operating, managing, working in, or volunteering in an enterprise conducting financial management."

"We were perfectly prepared to go to trial," Jeffrey Wehmuller, Hamilton County chief deputy prosecutor, said. "We anticipated approximately two weeks. We believe this plea agreement is a fair resolution to the case and about where we would have been if we had gone to trial."

He added: "You got court tied up for two weeks. You got bailiffs. You gotta bring in a jury. So it may have well saved the cost and expense of a trial," said Jeff Wehmueller.

In addition to the ten years for fraud, Schrenker also has to serve the four years he was sentenced to for intentionally crashing his plane. His attorney wants that to be served concurrently with the ten years, but the state of Indiana wants him to serve it consecutively. 

Victim David Smith agrees, saying 10 years is too little for the victims' pain.

"Their losses are tremendous and I've had some people use the word ruined. They were actually ruined by him," he said. "You get a larger sentence for stealing a car."

The plea agreement hearing takes place September 15th.

Pilot Mystery - See all stories and documents related to this case

(Reporters Jeremy Brilliant and David MacAnally contributed to this report.)