Lester, Laferte released on bail | TheUnion.com

Lester, Laferte released on bail

Susan Laferte

The two principal defendants in a high-profile fraud case have posted bail after proving there was a legitimate source for the funds.

Philip Lester, CEO of Gold Country Lenders, and Susan Laferte, the firm’s chief financial officer, had been in custody at the Nevada County Jail since their arrest Sept. 20. Initially, their bail had been set at $600,000, but that was reduced Oct. 25 to $150,000.

Lester was released Monday, and Superior Court Judge Candace Heidelberger OK’d Laferte’s release Tuesday morning.

Laferte, Philip Lester, his wife, Ellen, and Jonathan Blinder all are facing charges that allege Gold Country Lenders engaged in a pattern of theft and fraud-related crimes 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 previously had been released on her own recognizance.

Blinder has been charged with four felony counts of securities fraud and has posted $150,000 bail.

Blinder’s attorney, Malcolm Segal, filed a demurrer arguing Tuesday that Blinder had not received adequate notice of the charges against him and that the case falls outside the statute of limitations.

California Deputy Attorney General Maggy Krell, however, said the elements of conspiracy were adequately articulated in the complaint and that the crime had not been discoverable by the victims until March 2009 at the earliest. Krell added that Segal was going beyond the scope of a demurrer in referencing discovery evidence,

Segal asked that charges against Blinder be withdrawn and possibly re-filed, so that his client did not have to go through the preliminary hearing into the evidence that already had been set for the other defendants on Nov. 6.

“This is appropriately charged,” Krell responded. “We can amend if we see fit, but the allegations here are sufficient.”

Heidelberger agreed, finding that the allegations in the complaint were sufficient.

Blinder subsequently pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Segal then requested a postponement of the preliminary hearing.

“There is no way I can be ready to cross-examine the witnesses,” he said. “It’s an impossibility.”

Laferte’s court-appointed attorney, Greg Klein, and Philip Lester’s court-appointed attorney, Ken Tribby, also wanted a continuance. But Ellen Lester has not waived time, said her court-appointed attorney, David Alkire.

Discussion ensued as to whether it would be appropriate to sever, or separate, the cases. But Krell indicated she would oppose that, arguing for judicial efficiency.

Heidelberger set a felony conference at 1 p.m. Nov. 1 for Blinder; she set the preliminary hearing for all defendants on Nov. 6, subject to any motions to continue or to sever. The evidentiary hearing is expected to take at least two days.

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

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