Milford real estate agent in $15 million investment fraud case faces frenzy of taunts at courthouse

Brenda Ashcraft pleaded not guilty

CINCINNATI -- A Milford real estate agent who pleaded not guilty to charges she bilked investors out of at least $15 million couldn't escape accusations and heckling from former-business associates when she left court Friday.

Brenda Ashcraft, 43, was indicted Wednesday on charges she defrauded investors between 2009 and 2013 while she owned and operated French Manor Properties in Milford.

Ashcraft claims federal investigators are wrong when they say she lied for years about what she did with money investors gave her for real estate transactions.

But when Ashcraft left the federal courthouse in Cincinnati Friday, she couldn't evade the taunts and jeers from one of her former-business associates.

"Brenda, you stole $15 million. Where is the money? Where is the money?" shouted John Gilbert, who said he lost more $500,000 in his dealings with Ashcraft.

Gilbert shouted at Ashcraft and her husband for several city blocks. 

"Unbelievable, I am decimated," Gilbert told I-Team's Jason Law. "The fact that she's able to walk the streets and not be in jail...The bottom line is, people need their money back."

Investigators say Aschraft told investors she would “secure residential and commercial real estate at wholesale pricing.” Investors believed that their investments were secured by real estate and Ashcraft promised them 40 percent annual returns on their investments, the charges against her allege.

But the indictment claims Ashcraft diverted investor funds for her own personal use, including a $50,000 payment that she used to pay for Cincinnati Reds season tickets.

Ashcraft would at times send investors checks for returns on their investments but the checks often bounced, according to attorneys.

"You know, she made me believe she was a model citizen," Gilbert said. "You know, I was conned."

A 37-year-old Eastgate man who asked to remain anonymous told the I-Team that he made multiple investments with Ashcraft – and the last one was for more than $18,000.

He said he doesn’t think he’ll see that money again.

"I was shocked because I really believed it was something true,” the investor said. “I knew there was a little risk but I was hoping it would work out this time."

There are at least four civil lawsuits from investors suing Ashcraft to get their money back.

Another man, Bruce Van Dyke, said he is out $138,000 in bogus investments with Ashcraft.

"I'd tell her what goes around comes around, and she's gonna' get hers," Dyke said. "There's no doubt about it. I just hope we get some of our money back."

Ashcraft is charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of securities fraud, each punishable by up to 20 years in prison. She is also charged with one count of engaging in a monetary transaction in criminally derived property and aiding and abetting, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. 

She faces a maximum fine of $5 million on the securities fraud charge. The wire fraud and monetary transaction charges each carry maximum fines of $250,000.

At the hearing Friday, an assistant U.S. attorney said Ashcraft was still asking investors for money this past week.

The judge said Ashcraft can no longer open any new bank accounts. After pleading not guilty, Ashcraft was released.

No new court date has been set.

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