Friday, November 21, 2003

Con man gets 23 years

Judge decries extent of scam

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - Chad Copeland didn't kill or maim anyone, his lawyer pointed out Thursday. But a judge sent Copeland to prison for more than two decades for ruining lives, cheating banks and hurting public trust in financial institutions.

"His self-interest, his greed drives his every breath," Judge Keith Spaeth said atCopeland's sentencing hearing in Butler County Common Pleas Court.

Spaeth sentenced Copeland to 23 years in prison - a year for each conviction on theft, money laundering and other charges a jury returned in the county's largest financial crimes case ever.

Frank Schiavone, Copeland's lawyer, argued for probation, saying his client has a minimal prior criminal record and has talent and intelligence. "It's time for him to get out of the jail, to get to work and to pay these people back," he said.

Spaeth said he didn't think Copeland intended to make good on his purported plans to start a restaurant chain and snack-vending businesses.

Prosecutors say Copeland created the illusion that more than $3 million was flowing among banks and investment houses, as he bilked a Middletown couple out of their $150,000 retirement savings and cheated First National Bank of Southwestern Ohio out of $1.6 million.

"The numbers involved in this case speak to its seriousness," Spaeth said.

Spaeth fined Copeland $89,000. He also ordered him to repay the bank $724,381 and to repay investors Tom and Connie Kerr of Middletown $144,000. The Kerrs said they don't really expect to ever see that money.

Still, Connie Kerr said, "I'm glad the judge saw through him."


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