Prosecutor offers deal in Gold Country Lenders case |

Prosecutor offers deal in Gold Country Lenders case

Philip Lester

An offer is on the table for the two principals in a high-profile Nevada County fraud case that could send them to county jail for two or five years, respectively.

The Gold Country Lenders fraud trial — which has been repeatedly postponed since the arrest of Chief Executive Officer Phil Lester and Chief Financial Officer Susan Laferte in 2012 — currently is set to begin in late October.

During a status conference for the convoluted case Friday in Nevada County Superior Court, California Deputy Attorney General Maggy Krell said she had been in discussions with their attorneys “off and on” regarding a possible resolution.

Krell told Judge Candace Heidelberger she had offered a five-year sentence for Lester if he pleaded to one count, and a two-year sentence for Laferte.

Lester’s court-appointed attorney, Mary Beth Acton, clarified that the offer was for a lid, or maximum term, and she would be able to argue for less time. Krell would also dismiss any white-collar crime enhancements, meaning that Lester and Laferte would be eligible to serve their sentence in county jail.

Krell said her offer would be revoked on Aug. 15. The defense attorneys declined to comment on whether their clients were seriously considering the offer.

The complex fraud case has been marked by a number of delays since Lester and Laferte were arrested in September 2012, then were indicted in mid-January 2013 by a criminal grand jury for allegedly defrauding investors of millions of dollars over a period of eight years.

They each face 61 counts — 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.

Lester’s first court-appointed counsel, Ken Tribby, resigned in July 2013. Nevada County Superior Court Judge Candace Heidelberger subsequently appointed Acton to replace Tribby; Laferte continues to be represented by Greg Klein. Earlier this year, Acton hinted she might end up requesting another extension.

Heidelberger has set a trial date for Oct. 28 and is scheduling near-monthly check-ins between now and then.

Motions were to be filed by Oct. 3, with a trial readiness conference set for Oct. 10 and jury selection to start Oct. 21.

The next conference is set for Aug. 29.

To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email or call 530-477-4229.

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