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OSHKOSH - Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced that Mark H. Brenner, 50, of Oshkosh, entered pleas of guilty today to three felonies, including two counts of securities fraud and one count of selling an unregistered security. Judge Barbara Hart Key, who presided over this morning's hearing, accepted Brenner's pleas and convicted him of the three securities offenses.
Pursuant to a plea agreement, the court dismissed three other securities charges. Though dismissed, these charges, as well as uncharged securities offenses involving other victims and uncharged offenses in connection with Brenner's alleged misuse of another's credit card, will be considered by the court at the time of sentencing and also provide the basis for a restitution order.
Under the plea agreement, the State will recommend that Brenner serve 18 to 24 months in prison, followed by a period of extended supervision and probation totaling an additional 8 to 8 years. The plea agreement also requires Brenner to make full restitution to all victims.
The criminal complaint describes the charges arising from a series of transactions that Brenner had with an elderly husband and wife. According to the complaint, Brenner informed the couple that his real estate 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 couple invested nearly 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.
The uncharged securities offenses involved transactions with another elderly couple and the husband's elderly aunt in which they paid Brenner a total of $40,000 between 1999 and 2003 to invest in a similar real estate venture in exchange for promises of high interest payments. The credit card crimes involved Brenner making unauthorized charges of over $2000 against the wife's credit card. The plea agreement required Brenner to acknowledge his guilt to these uncharged crimes.
Judge Key scheduled the sentencing hearing for 10 a.m. on August 6, 2009, and she ordered a presentence investigation.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Paul L. Barnett as special prosecutor for Winnebago County and was investigated by the Wisconsin Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation.