Nevada County Superior Court Judge Candace Heidelberger on Tuesday denied a motion to dismiss charges in the Gold Country Lenders fraud case.
Phil Lester, Gold Country Lenders’ chief executive officer, and Chief Financial Officer Susan Laferte were indicted in mid-January by a criminal grand jury for allegedly defrauding investors of millions of dollars over a period of eight years.
They face 61 counts each — one count of using a scheme to defraud, 50 counts of offering securities for sale by means of an untrue statement or omission of a material fact and 10 counts of fraud from an elder adult. Their jury trial is currently set to start Sept. 17.
Laferte’s attorney, Greg Klein, and Lester’s attorney, Ken Tribby, had filed a 106-page motion arguing that all 61 counts should be dismissed because Krell failed to offer a significant amount of exculpatory evidence in the case, evidence that could prove that Lester and Laferte are innocent of the charges against them.
They also argued that the statue of limitations had passed for the charges.
But in her ruling, Heidelberger sided with state Deputy Attorney General Maggy Krell, finding that Krell provided sufficient admissible, competent evidence to support each count of the indictment, including those involving elder abuse.
Heidelberger said that much of the exculpatory evidence that Klein and Tribby claimed should have been presented “was, in fact, presented to the grand jury in one form or another.”
“A properly informed grand jury would have found probable cause to indict,” she wrote, adding that the manner in which the exhibits were presented was not misleading, as defense counsel suggested.
Heidelberger did note that there was contradictory evidence presented that raised some statute of limitations issues, but she also noted that there was sufficient evidence that some victims discovered the fraud within the four-year time period.
Because the case involves conflicting evidence on when some of all of the alleged victims discovered the fraud, Heidelberger ruled that issue would be better determined by a trial jury, rather than during an evidentiary hearing.
She denied the motion to set aside the indictment, and noted that the next court date is Aug. 16, when motions are set to be heard for the trial.
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