Accused swindler jailed in Lincoln

June 24, 2004|EMILY BURTON

STANFORD - A Lexington man is in the Lincoln County Regional Jail today after he allegedly swindled thousands of dollars out of investors from around the state, including several in Stanford.

"We had three victims here in town, four in Cynthiana, two victims in Lexington, one victim in Covington, and we're looking at a total of $150,000 possible," said Stanford police Detective Rick Edwards.

Janssen D. Willhoit, 4496 Hartland Parkway, is being held on a $100,000 cash bond under the preliminary charges of theft by deception. Edwards said the charges could change to include fraud when the case is sent to the grand jury, and could be joined by federal charges as well.

The investment scam was first reported by Stanford Mayor Eddie Carter, said Edwards. Carter had reportedly invested more than $50,000 of his personal money with Willhoit's false company, Net City. Net City, which promised investors high interest rates, was supposedly a subsidiary of National City Bank. But when Carter called to check on his account, he was told the number was a phony.


According to the complaint filed with police, Barbara Leigh and Stanford City Council member Jamie Leigh also were investors.

False investment paperwork had lulled the victims into trusting Net City by indicating the company was a affiliated with Met Life Insurance companies and of legitimate financial protection companies, Securities Investor Protection Corp. and NASD. Officials from the bank and Met Life confirmed that Net City was never an associate during that time, police report.

Willhoit's only apparent connection to National City was his duel accounts there. Both accounts have been frozen, said Edwards, but no money recovered.

It might never be found, the officer added. "No, I don't see it. I really don't."

The total amount of Willhoit's accounts cannot repay the money reported stolen, said Edwards. Investors' cash is thought to have been used to support Willhoit's comfortable lifestyle before his arrest.

Willhoit was caught during a sting operation, manned in part by a victim, said Edwards. A client said she wanted to further invest, and drew Willhoit back into town to collect the money.

Willhoit's alleged white-collar crime will cost the city even more, in the form of manhours devoted by the police department investigating the complicated case.

"White-collar crime is never easy. It's a paper trail, and it takes time," said Edwards.

Commonwealth's Attorney Eddy Montgomery, who is expecting to see the case cross his desk, said that white-collar crimes like fraud take numerous manhours to prosecute as well.

"We don't get much of it. Kinds of cases like that are difficult for us because we already have so much work, and the paperwork is just mountainous. It makes it very time consuming."

Montgomery and Edwards hope to get the FBI involved in the investigation.

With help from the greater-equipped FBI fraud division, the trail can be deciphered and the case prosecuted more efficiently. Especially since the reported crimes stretch across jurisdiction lines, said Montgomery.

Edwards also has a reason to want assistance in the lengthy investigation. The amount of time a case can languish before being sent to a grand jury is limited, so future charges hinge on the completion of Edwards' investigation.

"Now I have 60 days to indict him," Edwards explained, "so the clock's ticking."

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