Wanda English Burnett, Editor
It took three years to bring justice to people in Ripley County,
but Prosecutor Ric Hertel said it was worth it. Leonard Eckstein
of Sunman, last week paid $240,000 in restitution money. A conditional
negotiated plea agreement had been arranged in the case where
Eckstein was charged with five counts of criminal conversion
for his role in a securities scheme that spanned several years
Eckstein had already paid $25,000 in restitution and on September
18, he paid the balance of $240,000, bringing the total to $265,000.
A list of victims will be submitted to the court for the funds
to be distributed to. Also, Eckstein will be on probation for
two years during which time he is not to commit a criminal act
or violate any traffic laws. He will pay probation fees and
any other conditions the court may impose.
Prosecutor Ric Hertel noted that the investigation began nearly
seven years ago with the FBI in Cincinnati, the Ohio Attorney
General, Indiana Secretary of State, U.S. Attorneys offices
in Cincinnati and Portland, and the Securities Exchange Commission
in Chicago. In 2003 Detective Tracy Rohlfing of the Indiana
State Police Versailles Post, was assigned to the case. The
prosecutor noted that all investigations centered on the First
International Bank of Grenada, with a multitude of sub-banks
including Wellington Capital and Wellington International.
Also involved in the securities scheme were two men from the
Cincinnati area, John Brinker and Gary Bentz. Both were prosecuted
federally in Cincinnati and locally by the Ripley County Prosecutors
Office. Both men were convicted on federal and state charges,
and are still incarcerated. They have several million dollar
judgments against them for their role. Prosecutor Hertel noted
that Eckstein was never charged or indicted federally. According
to Ripley Publishing Co. files, the three were involved in offering
and selling unregistered securities in a fraudulent manner,
bilking local residents out of savings, retirement and college
funds through the scheme.
In a press release from the prosecutor it noted the cases involving
the trio - Eckstein, Brinker and Bentz - has taken several twists
and turns over the past three years including an appeal to the
Indiana Court of Appeals and a change of venue to Marion County
where the prosecutor and Chief Deputy Prosecutor Ryan King were
deputized there specifically for this case. Depositions
of SEC accountants have taken place in Chicago and plea negotiations
were conducted with the US Attorneys Office in Cincinnati.
The end result was done in the interest of justice, according
to the prosecutor. He said, without the commitment of
the state police and vigilance of Detective Rohlfing, these
convictions could not have been made possible. Much credit should
be given to the detective for seeing this case through.
Hertel also thanked the victims in this case for their patience
and understanding. There were many dark and uncertain
times over the past three years, but our office was committed
to this case despite the transfer and length. He said
he had built a relationship with many of the victims and didnt
feel it would be fair to them to leave the case to another prosecutor
in another jurisdiction.