Hearing into evidence in fraud case postponed | TheUnion.com

Hearing into evidence in fraud case postponed

The preliminary hearing into the evidence against three of the four defendants in the fraud case involving Gold Country Lenders has been postponed until mid-March.

That hearing is expected to last three to five days.

Philip Lester, CEO of Gold Country Lenders, Susan Laferte, the firm’s chief financial officer, Ellen Lester and Jonathan Blinder all are facing charges that allege Gold Country Lenders engaged in a pattern of theft and fraud for over eight years, bilking investors of more than $2.3 million.

Philip Lester and Laferte have been charged with 66 felony counts of elder abuse, securities fraud and conspiracy. Ellen Lester has been charged with two felony counts of conspiracy and securities fraud, and Blinder has been charged with four felony counts of securities fraud.

In Nevada County Superior Court Thursday, Judge Candace Heidelberger granted a request for a continuance of the preliminary hearing by the attorneys for Laferte, Blinder and Philip Lester due to the “substantial” amount of discovery and the complexity of the case. The hearing had been set for Nov. 6 but now has been re-scheduled for March 12. A felony conference was set for Jan. 17.

But David Alkire, who is representing Ellen Lester, said his client had not waived her right to have her hearing within 60 days of her arraignment.

Alkire noted that he had just received some discovery that he had requested nine days ago and added that he received an “evasive” response to a request for the names of investors who had been solicited by the state Attorney General’s office to join the investigation but declined. He added that an assertion by California Deputy Attorney General Maggy Krell that the CDs of discovery she provided were searchable was untrue.

Alkire told Heidelberger it would be impossible for him to be ready by Tuesday, the date of Ellen Lester’s preliminary hearing, and asked for a two-week postponement.

Nevada County Assistant District Attorney Anna Ferguson, who was standing in for Krell, argued that all of the evidentiary hearings should take place the same day and noted that changing the subpoena dates for the witnesses would be “outrageously difficult.”

Alkire indicated that he would be filing a motion for a continuance; Heidelberger indicated that should he do so, a hearing would take place on the matter Nov. 5. Ellen Lester’s preliminary hearing remained set for Nov. 6.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email lkellar@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4229.

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