Thursday, March 25, 2004

Erpenbecks switching to guilty pleas

Father, son decide to admit to witness-tampering charges

By James McNair
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Bill and Tony Erpenbeck notified federal authorities Wednesday that they will plead guilty to the witness-tampering charges that put them in jail Feb. 5.

According to papers filed in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, the father and son will enter their pleas at 9:30 a.m. Monday.

The men were indicted on five counts of obstruction and conspiracy Feb. 18 and pleaded not guilty at their arraignment Feb. 24. They face up to 30 years in prison for each of the counts.

Bill Erpenbeck's sentencing on his bank-fraud conviction had been scheduled for Monday, but it was postponed to April 1. The Erpenbecks were arrested Feb. 5 in an FBI sting that ended in a parking garage at a Covington hotel.

The two were accused of trying to persuade Bill's sister, Lori Erpenbeck, to alter her testimony at a sentencing hearing the next day. She told the FBI that Tony, her father, had approached her earlier in the week about revising her story to make Bill appear less responsible for the $33.9 million shortfall that left nearly 300 customers of the Erpenbeck Co. with unpaid construction mortgages and liens on their homes.

Lori, a former Erpenbeck Co. supervisor who has pleaded guilty to bank fraud, wore a wire as the FBI monitored her conversations with the two men over a three-day span. According to an FBI transcript, Bill wanted Lori to say that she initiated the check-kiting scheme and that it mushroomed out of control. He said that if she adhered to the story line, she would be "welcomed back to the family."

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office would not comment on the filing.

Whitaker could not be reached for comment; nor could Ed McTigue, a Cincinnati lawyer who has taken over Tony Erpenbeck's defense from federal public defender C. Ransom Hudson.


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