CINCINNATI -- A Milford woman was sentenced to more than eight years in prison for a "Ponzi scheme" that took victims for more than $4.2 million, officials announced Monday.
Brenda Ashcraft, 46, will have to pay back the 34 people who invested in her scheme, and a judge sentenced her to spend 97 months in prison.
Ashcraft operated the scheme through her real estate company, French Manor Properties, between 2009 and 2013, according to officials. She told prospective investors that she had relationships with various banks that gave her exclusive access to properties in foreclosure that she could flip for a quick profit. She said invested funds and a large profit would be returned in about two or three months.
However, bank records show Ashcraft didn't use the money to buy properties. She instead paid back earlier investors seeking the return for their money and to pay for personal expenses, including numerous trips to Cancun and Diamond Seat tickets to Reds games.
Ashcraft also created a fake employee for her company to handle investor complaints, sending emails to investors and herself under the fake name. She also remotely "wiped" the contents of a cell phone seized by FBI agents, officials said.
"She preyed on friends, family, and the relationships she developed with other parents at her kids’ school," U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman said. "It's important to punish crimes like this with significant sentences, not only to achieve some measure of justice for the victims, but also to deter others who might be tempted to commit similar crimes."
Ashcraft pleaded guilty last year to one count of wire fraud, one count of securities fraud, one count of destruction of evidence and one count of money laundering.