Leonard Eckstein will be on probation for two years
Sunman man pays victims $265,000

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 and states.

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. Attorney’s 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 Prosecutor’s 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 Attorney’s 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 didn’t feel it would be fair to them to leave the case to another prosecutor in another jurisdiction.