Financial adviser accused of stealing $9.3 million from retirees speaks at trial
CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) — A former financial adviser accused of stealing $9.3 million from dozens of northeast Ohio residents spoke out in his own defense Friday.
19 Investigates has covered this story for several years.
We were in the courtroom when Raymond Erker collapsed on the stand crying.
He said he had ruined so many lives of people he loved, and he said he accepted responsibility for the failure of his business.
But he maintains his innocence.
The victims and their families waited three years to see Erker in court, between a lengthy investigation and Covid-19 disruptions to the justice system.
Federal investigators say Westlake’s former financial adviser was the mastermind of an elaborate Ponzi scheme, operating offices in Delaware and Nevada.
“Ray stole their money, but he stole their peace of mind,” said Bridget DeChagas, who drove from the Washington DC area to the trial.
Her mother couldn’t make it to court, so she made sure she was there to see the man who allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from her.
“My mother, Margaret Whalen, died a few weeks ago and she was a maternity nurse for 40 years,” she said.
“She estimates that she gave birth to around 1,000 babies,” she said.
19 Investigators spoke to Margaret two years ago. You can watch this story here.
She told us that she had worked weekends and holidays over the years to save money.
Margaret then invested that money, over $200,000, with a family friend, Raymond Erker.
“I’m sure it shocked her when she dragged her oxygen tank into her office to find out why all her finances and checks were overdue. But she decided early on that she didn’t want to let Ray steal more money from her, more anything,” DeChagas said.
No cameras are allowed in federal court.
But we were there as a dozen victims and family members watched Erker testify.
We also heard audio of a wire that one of the victims wore in 2018 with the help of Westlake Police.
She met Erker at a local restaurant.
On the recording, Erker told the woman he screwed up and “I’m 100% wrong here.”
Erker told the prosecutor everyone had to hear the whole conversation.
“It’s very difficult to listen and find out that your money was used as a personal account. To build an extension on your house, to pay for things. That’s not what this money was invested for,” said said Vivian McLaughlin.
McLaughlin’s father, Robert Edmonds, is a retired Cleveland police officer.
He and his wife lost $250,000.
Erker was also a family friend to them.
We first spoke to Edmonds and his family in 2019.
You can watch this story here.
With an ongoing federal investigation, we were unable to share their story until charges were filed.
“Every victim, 54 victims, every one of them deserves to be heard,” McLaughlin said.
These were meant 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 it to him, 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 closed its case on Friday afternoon.
We expect to hear oral argument from both parties on Monday.
That’s when the jury will begin to deliberate.
Two Erker associates, Tara Brunst and Kevin Krantz, recently pleaded guilty to participating in an investment fraud scheme.
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