Financial adviser accused of stealing $9.3 million from retirees takes stand at trial
CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A former financial adviser accused of stealing $9.3 million from dozens of northeast Ohioans took the stand in his own defense Friday.
19 Investigates has been covering this story for the last several years.
We were in the courtroom when Raymond Erker broke down on the stand, crying.
He said he ruined so many lives of the people he loved, and he said he accepted responsibility for his company failing.
But he maintains his innocence.
Victims and their families waited for three years to see Erker in court, between a lengthy investigation and Covid-19 disruptions to the court system.
Federal investigators say the former Westlake financial adviser was the mastermind of an elaborate Ponzi scheme, operating office fronts in Delaware and Nevada.
“Ray stole their money, but he stole their peace of mind,” said Bridget DeChagas, who drove from the Washington D.C. area to come to the trial.
Her mom couldn’t make it to court, so she made sure she was there to see the man who allegedly who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from her.
“My mother, Margaret Whalen, passed away a few weeks ago, and she was a maternity nurse for 40 years,” she said.
“She estimates she delivered about 1,000 babies into this world,” she said.
19 Investigates spoke to Margaret two years ago. You can watch that story here.
She told us she worked weekends and holidays over the years to save up.
Margaret later invested that money, more than $200,000, with a family friend-- Raymond Erker.
“I’m sure it was shocking to her, when she dragged her oxygen tank into his office to find out why all of her finances and checks were bouncing. But she made a decision early on that she didn’t want to let Ray steal more money—more of anything from her,” DeChagas said.
No cameras are allowed in Federal court.
But we were there as about a dozen victims and family members watched Erker testify.
We also heard the audio from a wire one of the victims wore back in 2018 with the help of Westlake Police.
She met with Erker at a local restaurant.
On the recording, Erker told the woman he screwed up and “I’m 100 percent in the wrong here.”
Erker told the prosecutor everyone needed to hear the full conversation.
“It is very hard to listen to and find out your money was used as a personal account. To build an addition on his home, to pay for things. That’s not what that money was invested for,” said Vivian McLaughlin.
McLaughlin’s dad, Robert Edmonds, is a retired Cleveland Police officer.
He and his wife lost $250,000.
Erker was a family friend to them too.
We first spoke to Edmonds and his family back in 2019.
You can watch that story here.
With a federal investigation underway, we couldn’t share their story until charges were filed.
“Every single victim, 54 victims, every single one of them deserve to be heard,” McLaughlin said.
These were supposed to be low risk investments for retirement.
But instead, prosecutors said, Erker invested in himself.
“You have to put it aside and live your life, because we’re not going to give him that, we’re not going to give him our happiness,” McLaughlin said.
“That’s what you have to do, you have to keep going,” she said.
The defense rested its case Friday afternoon.
We expect to hear closing arguments from both sides on Monday.
That’s when the jury will start deliberating.
Two associates of Erker, Tara Brunst and Kevin Krantz, recently pleaded guilty to participating in an investment fraud scheme.
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