Iraqi currency scheme turns into lengthy prison terms
BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Describing him as “a scammer who got scammed himself,” a federal judge sentenced an Ottawa Hills businessman Thursday to 87 months in prison for defrauding investors who bought Iraqi currency and placements in two nonexistent hedge funds.
Bradford Huebner, 67, was convicted by a jury May 22 of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, 30 counts of structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements, and nine counts of money laundering.
Co-defendant Charles Emmenecker, 67, of Sylvania who was convicted at the same trial of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud, was sentenced Thursday to 33 months in prison.
At the objection of Assistant U.S. Attorney Gene Crawford, U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary allowed both men to remain free on bond and ordered them to report to begin serving their prison sentences after Dec. 10.
Huebner, Emmenecker, and co-defendant Rudolph Coenen, 49, of Jacksonville, also will be ordered to pay a yet-to-be-determined amount of restitution for the fraud scheme that federal prosecutors said involved some $23.8 million in sales of Iraqi dinar and $750,000 from sales of the hedge fund seats. A forfeiture of property also is to be ordered by the court.
Coenen, who pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced Sept. 24 to 63 months in prison, was painted as “the bad guy” by attorneys for Huebner and Emmenecker.
“Rudy Coenen is the guy who told the lies, and he made them up long before he ever heard of Brad Huebner,” Rick Kerger, attorney for Huebner, told the court.
During the trial, it was shown that Huebner’s company, the BH Group, had presented Coenen as a currency expert during weekly conference calls in which they promoted the dinar and hedge funds to potential investors.
Besides repeating falsehoods about investing in the currency and its ability to make them rich, they spoke of Coenen’s service as a Marine in Iraq where he was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart and his previous work as a vice president at JP Morgan Chase.
Neither of the claims was true.
Huebner made a lengthy statement to the court, saying he bought Coenen’s story — as many people did — hook, line, and sinker.
“I will be the first to tell you that I am guilty of trusting people too much — to a fault,” he said.
Huebner apologized to his family and those he harmed and expressed what he called “overwhelming remorse and embarrassment” for the position he was in.
He also reiterated the claims he had made to family, friends, and others who became customers of the BH Group — that one day “in the near future” the Iraqi government would revalue its currency and everyone’s investment would pay off.
Judge Zouhary said it sounded as though Huebner was still in denial.
“You indicated today that you are still excited for all the investors,” the judge said. “Don’t be excited. Be saddened.”
Huebner had faced a sentencing range of 235 to 293 months in prison, and Mr. Crawford asked for a term within that range. Calling him a “hard-core fraudster,” Mr. Crawford said Huebner showed no remorse and only wanted to play the blame game.
“The court may never again have before it the CEO of a company that brought in $23 million in gross receipts in the sale of dinar and is responsible for absolutely nothing because everything is always someone else’s fault,” Mr. Crawford said.
Emmenecker also received a sentence significantly less than the federal guidelines as Judge Zouhary found him to be “less culpable” than Huebner and Coenen.
His attorney, Reginald Jackson, maintained that Emmenecker “never made a penny” from the dinar sales but “believed and trusted Brad Huebner” and wanted to help his friends.
Judge Zouhary said both men had long business careers and should have known better or at least looked into Coenen’s background.
“The warning bells should have been deafening to you,” he told Emmenecker.
Emmenecker told the court he had hoped through the BH Group conference calls he moderated to bring better information about the currency investment to interested buyers.
“I had never intended for any of my friends to lose any money, to be hurt,” he said. “… One thing led to another and here I am in this pickle for which I’m very, very sorry.”
A fourth co-defendant in the case, Michael Teadt, 67, of Maumee was acquitted at trial of conspiracy charges but was found guilty — as was Huebner — of one count of mail fraud for filing a false application for federal job-training funds.
He was placed on probation for two years, ordered to pay a $2,000 fine, and — along with Huebner — pay $5,767 in restitution.