Centerville attorney pleads guilty to Ponzi scheme role

Local attorney Steven Scudder pleaded guilty Friday to his role in the $70 million Ponzi scheme allegedly orchestrated by William and Connie Apostelos, who themselves are headed to trial in April after a Friday hearing.

One or both of the Aposteloses were expected to enter a plea Friday, but instead both requested a trial be pushed back to April 4. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Tabacchi didn’t oppose the extension, but said the government will “cease negotiations” on a plea deal if not agreed to by Feb. 3.

Scudder, 62, of Centerville, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to wire fraud, admitting that he used his position as an attorney to facilitate a fraudulent investment scheme operated by the Aposteloses.

Court documents state that between July 2013 and July 2014, Scudder served as trustee of the WMA Trust, a land trust that purported to secure investments that individuals had made with William Apostelos.

Scudder resigned from the trust in summer 2014, but says Apostelos told him to continue telling people he was trustee of WMA until September. During this time, an investment group of approximately 10 people in another state invested more than $1 million with Apostelos, records say.

Apostelos allegedly used the funds to pay earlier investors rather than investing the money as promised.

Scudder faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gain or gross loss from the crime, whichever is greater.

District Judge Thomas Rose will schedule a date for sentencing following a pre-sentence investigation by the court.

In addition to Scudder, William Apostelos’ sister and a former administrative assistant pleaded guilty this month to conspiracy charges in the case, centered on the Aposteloses.

William and Connie Apostelos, of Springboro, are accused of bilking nearly 500 investors out of tens of millions of dollars during at least a 5-year period from 2009 to 2014.

Federal investigators say the couple bought race horses, expensive artwork, vehicles, jewelry and clothes. Agents seized $650,000 from them and say they spent $400 a month on Victoria’s Secret lingerie.

Victims in the case have attempted civil lawsuits against PNC bank and two financial trusts for handling the finances of the Ponzi scheme, but Rose ruled in both cases that the financial companies had not “acted outside the scope of routine banking activities.”

Victims were among the dozens of onlookers in the galley of the hearing in federal court Friday. Others included agents from the massive investigation that included the Department of Labor, IRS, FBI and U.S. Postal Service.

Judge Rose cautioned the defendants that, barring a plea deal, the trial will proceed as schedule.

“The court would be very hesitant, very resistant to any more continuances,” he said.

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