Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Erpenbeck camp claims forgery

FBI subpoenas title companies

By James McNair, jmcnair@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Forgery has once again been claimed in an Erpenbeck Co. transaction, this time by the Erpenbeck camp itself.

        The assertion arose in a civil lawsuit filed in Boone County by Builders FirstSource, a Cincinnati supplier of building materials. The company alleges that Erpenbeck Co. and Erpenbeck & Kennedy Builders owe it $438,000 in unpaid bills.

        The case would have remained a matter between builder and supplier had it not been for personal guarantees believed to have been signed by Jeffrey Erpenbeck and Gary Erpenbeck, younger brothers of former Erpenbeck Co. president A. William “Bill” Erpenbeck. Jeff Erpenbeck took over the company from his brother in March. Gary Erpenbeck left about four months ago.

        Builders FirstSource alleges that since the brothers guaranteed the loans, they should each be held responsible for the entire $438,000.

        One big problem, the brothers said in lawsuit answers filed last week: The signatures aren't theirs.

Second forgery accusation
        In his response, Gary Erpenbeck goes as far as to say that the signature of his name is a forgery. Jeff Erpenbeck says simply that his alleged signature is not authentic. As a result, both claim that the guarantee isn't enforceable.

        In the court document, neither named anyone who might have forged their signatures.

        Charles Hughes, a lawyer for Builders FirstSource, had no comment on the responses Monday.

        It's the second time in the wake of the Erpenbeck Co. collapse that forgery has been alleged. The first instance stemmed from an episode involving an Independence couple and Peoples Bank of Northern Kentucky.

        After buying their house from Erpenbeck Co. for $198,000, Charles and Sherry Mitchell found that Erpenbeck's original $139,489 construction loan had not been paid off. They complained, and Erpenbeck Co. produced a letter supposedly faxed by the first mortgage-holder, Kenwood Savings Bank, saying the loan had been paid in full.

        Kenwood, however, said it sent no such letter and that the signature of its president, Thomas W. Burns, was forged. It also pointed out that the return phone number on the faxed document was that of Erpenbeck Co.

        The FBI is continuing its bank fraud investigation involving The Erpenbeck Co. The U.S. Attorney's office has filed civil forfeiture lawsuits against 24 homes suspected of having been financed in part by bank fraud. The office served subpoenas for records on a number of real estate title companies Monday.


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