Judge orders freeze on assets of Ind. money manager's wife

Friday, February 6, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS -- The estranged wife of an indicted Indiana money manager withdrew tens of thousands of dollars from bank accounts that also included investor money in the week before she filed for divorce, a judge ruled Thursday in freezing her assets in hopes that clients can recoup their losses.

Businessman Marcus Schrenker, 38, has been jailed in Florida since his arrest Jan. 13 at a Tallahassee-area campground, two days after authorities say he parachuted from his airplane and left it pilotless over Alabama in a bid to fake his death to escape mounting business and personal problems. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of deliberately crashing the aircraft, which ended up in Florida, and making a false distress call.

State attorneys pursuing separate charges related to his business dealings in Indiana pressed for his assets and those of his wife, Michelle Schrenker, to become part of a court-controlled receivership. They said Michelle Schrenker's assets are crucial because she is listed as chief financial officer in one of her husband's companies and has been living in the couple's suburban Indianapolis home assessed at $1.4 million.

Her attorney disputes the ruling that she withdrew the money, saying her husband took it out himself and used some to fly to Key West, Fla., with his girlfriend.

Mary Schmid said she would appeal Judge J. Richard Campbell's ruling.

"The judge has not followed the law, and the facts as he's written them in the order are also incorrect," Schmid said.

Records show $66,500 withdrawn in Michelle Schrenker's name from an investor account between Dec. 23 and Dec. 30, the day she filed for divorce. The next day, Indiana police served a search warrant on the Schrenkers' home and Marcus Schrenker's office, seizing computers, tubs full of financial documents and evidence of recent document shredding.

The records show another $14,622 came out of the same account to pay credit card and other bills in the same period.

"The fact that she was overpaid for limited duties, the fact that she permitted Marcus Schrenker to put their assets in her name, the fact that she personally withdrew funds from the corporations' accounts" all suggest she violated Indiana securities law, Campbell wrote in freezing the couple's personal assets and those of Marcus Schrenker's three businesses.

Campbell, a judge in Hamilton County Superior Court in suburban Indianapolis, noted that Michelle Schrenker received $10,000 a month for her role as CFO.

A tearful Michelle Schrenker, emerging from a court hearing on her divorce petition shortly after Campbell's ruling, said she was being treated unfairly.

"I have done nothing wrong," she told WTHR-TV. "The only thing my husband did was give me a glorified title in that company."

A former girlfriend of Schrenker's, Kelly Baker, testified before Campbell on Jan. 30 that over two months ending in early December, the businessman and stunt pilot gave her nearly $20,000 in gifts.

An administrative law judge last month permanently revoked Schrenker's Indiana insurance license after investors testified Schrenker had forged signatures on investment documents, charged exorbitant fees and removed money from their accounts without authorization, costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars. Schrenker also lost a $533,000 judgment to an insurance company in December.

Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita, who oversees securities regulation in the state, said people continue to come forward claiming Schrenker bilked them out of investment money.

The ruling, he said, will allow his office and the court-appointed receiver "to continue identifying and preserving any assets that have been built up through ill-gotten gain."

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