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MADISON - An Oshkosh man charged in connection with a real estate investment scheme was bound over for trial, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced today. Judge Barbara Hart Key scheduled the case for a status conference on November 3, 2008 at 9 a.m.
Mark H. Brenner, 49, appeared in court this morning and waived his right to a preliminary hearing. Brenner pled "not guilty" to six felonies, including three counts arising from allegations that he engaged in securities fraud by making false representations and omitting material information in soliciting the investments from an elderly husband and wife. The other three counts allege that Brenner sold the securities without properly registering them with the Department of Financial Institutions, as required by Wisconsin law.
According to the criminal complaint, Brenner informed the investors that his business involved purchasing distressed properties, repairing and refurbishing them, and then reselling the properties for a profit. Brenner represented that his business was established and "going," enabling him to pay big interest and that he was working with a loan officer who fed him information when the loan officer's bank was getting ready to foreclose on a property.
Relying on these representations, the complaint continues, the elderly victims invested a total of $97,000 in a series of transactions between November 2001 and November 2002. The interest rates for these investments ranged from 10 to 15 percent annually. By November 2004, Brenner owed nearly $105,000, including principal and interest. He entered into another agreement with the victims to repay the obligation. All payments stopped in April 2005.
The complaint further alleges that, in fact, Brenner and his business, Valley Home Buyers, never purchased a single property and that Brenner used these investment funds to pay his living expenses and interest payments. Additionally, the investigation revealed that from 1990 to 1994, Brenner was sued numerous times, resulting in money judgments against him and one foreclosure. The complaint states that Brenner never informed the elderly couple of any of these facts.
A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent and the state must prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Paul L. Barnett as special prosecutor for Winnebago County and was investigated by the Department of Justice's Division Criminal Investigation.