Crime

He was supposed to helping people manage their money. Instead he helped himself.

A managing partner in a commercial financing business in Gautier has admitted he committed wire fraud while converting investors’ money to his own use.

Thomas “Lenny” Lepre, who helped form the Alternative Financing Group in March 2012, has accepted a plea deal on one of four indicted counts of wire fraud. He was accused of defrauding investors of $519,089, as shown in wire transfers listed in court records.

Lepre has been a small-business lobbyist for the National Federation of Small Business.

Before his arrest in August 2016, Lepre told the Sun Herald he was surprised to learn of the investigation.

“I’m speechless,” Lepre said. “Nobody has contacted me and I don’t even know what to say.”

On Friday, he admitted transferring $27,294 from outside of Mississippi to a Wells Fargo bank account in Ocean Springs, court records show. The transfer took place June 10, 2013.

The other amounts of wire transfers listed in the indictment ranged from $65,795 to $250,000, all transferred to Wells Fargo in Ocean Springs.

Lepre is free on bond pending his sentencing on Nov. 17. A federal wire fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, three years of probation and a $250,000 fine.

Lepre was targeted for investigation by the FBI before his indictment on Aug. 23, 2016. He devised a scheme to defraud investors from December 2012 through July 2014 in Harrison and Jackson counties while committing wire fraud to conceal his crimes, according to the indictment.

Lepre solicited significant amounts of money from investor clients and also from clients who borrowed money for commercial services, a prosecutor said in a court filing. Lepre did not use the funds as he had promised investors and borrowers, and deceived them by converting their money for his personal use.

He pleaded not guilty on Sept. 18.

Lepre entered his plea Friday before U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews

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