“If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.”
That’s a piece of advice 34 investors wished they heeded after being scammed out of more than $4.2 million dollars by ex-real estate agent Brenda Ashcraft.
According to a report by The Cincinnati Enquirer, Ashcraft promised the investors — some of whom were her friends and neighbors, plus other members of the community — a “quick and sizeable profit” by giving them access to foreclosed properties through her company, French Manor Properties.
From 2009 through 2013, Ashcraft told investors she had exclusive access to foreclosed properties that she could buy for a small amount, and then flip for profit.
But bank records show that Ashcraft never bought any foreclosed properties — instead, she used the money for vacations, spa days, Cincinnati Reds season tickets and to repay early investors.
In addition to lying about her purchases, prosecutors say that Ashcraft sent investors bad checks for returns on their investments and created a fake employee to answer complaints and send emails to investors and herself.
“She continually pressed victims for more money, even when she knew that their personal lives were being ruined by this scheme,” prosecutors said in a memorandum.
“Her penchant for lying borders on the pathological; her quest for money is unrelenting; and her behavior throughout the legal proceedings has been unrepentant.”
Ashcraft’s attorneys’ said she suffered from bipolar disorder and had “persecutory delusions” that were the cause of her actions.
But an evaluation showed no signs of mental illness, and she subsequently pleaded guilty to wire fraud, securities fraud, destruction of evidence and money laundering.
On Dec. 12, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman announced that Ashcraft would serve an eight-year sentence for her crimes.