NOBLESVILLE, Ind. – A judge Thursday ignored pleas for leniency from an Indiana money manager who conned friends into investing in a fund that didn't exist and tried to fake his death by parachuting out of a plane and crashing it when the scheme started to unravel.
Hamilton Superior Court Judge Steven Nation sentenced Marcus Schrenker to 10 years in prison, ignore Schrenker's claims that a lighter sentence would give him enough time to make things right.
Schrenker will serve the sentence consecutively with a four-year federal prison term he received for ditching his plane in January 2009 and crashing it in Florida.
Schrenker, 39, told Nation he wanted to repay investors and rebuild his relationship with the three children he's seen only once since his arrest. He said he has bipolar disorder and had got caught in a downward spiral of stress after becoming addicted to painkillers.
"I had it all and I threw it away," he said as his estranged wife, Michelle, watch the proceedings quietly from the audience.
Schrenker pleaded guilty last month to five securities fraud charges and agreed to serve up to 10 years in prison and pay more than $600,000 in restitution. As part of the plea deal, four charges against Schrenker were dismissed.
Nation said he had such a hard time believing Schrenker wouldn't spiral into the same pattern of behavior again that he almost didn't accept the plea agreement.
Schrenker estimated he still owes investors about $400,000, but Hamilton County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Jeff Wehmueller said he faces millions of dollars in court-ordered judgments when he is released from prison. Wehmueller said it would be "virtually impossible" for Schrenker to pay back all the money he owes.
Schrenker was an amateur daredevil pilot who used money he stole from investors to buy planes, luxury cars and a 10,000-square-foot home in an upscale suburban Indianapolis neighborhood nicknamed "Cocktail Cove," where affluent boaters often socialized, prosecutors say.
They say Schrenker bilked nine clients, including a friend of 10 years and his own aunt, out of a total of about $1.5 million they thought they were investing in a foreign currency fund that didn't exist.
"I almost lost everything," one of those victims, Charles William Black, said in court Thursday. He told Schrenker he forgave him even though he had betrayed their longtime friendship by stealing about $15,000 in savings intended for Black's children.
Black said he hopes Schrenker can be a good father to his children, ages 15, 13 and 8, when he gets out of prison.
Defense attorney P. Chadwick Hill argued that a long prison term for Schrenker would be punishment for his children and said his client had changed now that he was properly medicated.
"How big a chunk of Marcus do we want?" he asked.
But Wehmueller questioned whether Schrenker was thinking of his children's well-being when he parachuted out of his plane nearly two years ago. He said the things Schrenker blamed for his wrongdoing — his bipolar disorder, addiction and stress — were all "circumstances that could come back."
The scheme began to unravel when the economy declined and some investors wanted to stash their money in safer investments, prosecutors say. His wife filed for divorce Dec. 30, 2008, a day before Indiana police seized computers and financial documents during a search of his home and office. Days earlier, he lost a $533,000 judgment to an insurance company.
Facing mounting legal problems, Schrenker put his small plane on autopilot in January 2009 and jumped out with a parachute. He said he pointed the plane toward the Gulf of Mexico, but the plane ran out of fuel and crashed in the Florida Panhandle.
Schrenker parachuted into Alabama and was found two days later at a Florida campground, bleeding of a self-inflicted wrist slash.
Indiana authorities had the assets of Schrenker and his estranged wife placed in a court-controlled receivership.
Wehmueller said Schrenker would serve his time in an Indiana prison before finishing about three years remaining on his federal sentence. The judge suspended another 10 years of his sentence and ordered him to be placed on probation for four years after his release.
As part of his probation, Schrenker cannot work in financial management and must seek counseling.