Monday, January 19, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS | An Indiana financial manager who parachuted from a small plane in a suspected bid to fake his death handled lucrative accounts in several states for years despite repeated accusations that he was bilking investors.

Regulators in at least three states were warned about Marcus Schrenker, in one case as early as 2002.

But it took nearly seven years - and suspected losses reaching into the millions of dollars - before Indiana launched a criminal investigation of Mr. Schrenker, whose high-flying lifestyle included planes, luxury cars and a 10,000-square-foot home. Officials say he deliberately switched his licensing from state to state to create confusion about who should have been watching him.

Mr. Schrenker’s wife filed for divorce Dec. 30, a day before Indiana police served a search warrant on his home and office, seizing computers, tubs full of financial documents and evidence of recent document shredding. This was within days of his loss of a $533,000 judgment to an insurance company.

With his personal and financial woes mounting, Mr. Schrenker, 38, bailed out of his plane Jan. 11 near Birmingham, Ala., and sped away on a motorcycle. The plane, left on autopilot, continued for another 200 miles before crashing near homes in the Florida panhandle.

On Jan. 13, Mr. Schrenker was arrested at a Florida campground where a suspected suicide attempt left him hospitalized with a self-inflicted gash to a wrist. He was released Sunday from a Tallahassee hospital.

Mr. Schrenker was being held Monday in the Escambia County Jail, though a court date had not been set. Federal court records did not list an attorney for him.

Felony charges from his financial dealings are pending in Indiana, where authorities have frozen Mr. Schrenker’s assets and those of his wife. He also faces nearly $9 million in potential and actual judgments and legal claims, some filed in other states, on complaints that he failed to refund unwarranted commissions and charged exorbitant fees.

“That guy’s house of cards is falling rapidly,” said Charles Kinney, an airline pilot from Atlanta who has made formal complaints that Mr. Schrenker scammed up to $135,000 from his parents’ retirement fund. “We knew this day was coming.”

Authorities in Indiana and Georgia have received at least nine complaints since 2002 against Mr. Schrenker and his companies - Icon Wealth Management, Heritage Wealth Management and Heritage Insurance Services. A financial industry regulatory group says there were two other complaints filed in 2001.

Georgia’s insurance department worked with five people who filed complaints over Mr. Schrenker’s handling of annuities - including charging exorbitant “surrender fees” the investors didn’t know they’d face - starting in late 2006, said spokesman Glenn Allen. The department eventually obtained $2.5 million in refunds for the investors, working with insurance companies that issued those annuities.

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