Guilty plea expected on fraud charge

GREENFIELD — An attorney for Ron Nichter said the former investment manager and Greenfield city official will plead guilty to eight counts of mail fraud after investigators said he bilked clients out of more than $160,000.

Nichter was accused of scamming clients by creating false documents and forging signatures.

While his attorney, Monica Foster, said there’s a story to how a “good person … can do something so hurtful to other people,” Nichter’s victims said they are still hurting, both financially and emotionally, over the betrayal of trust by a friend and colleague.

Nichter was indicted under federal charges in 2013 on eight counts of mail fraud and eight counts of aggravated identity theft. Federal officials said beginning in October 2009, Nichter deposited checks of 14 clients into his own bank account, having endorsed the checks by forging his clients’ signatures.

Nichter couldn’t be reached for comment, but Foster said there’s more to his side of the story. She’s just not ready to tell it yet.

“He is a good person who did a bad thing, and there’s a story to tell where a good person can find themselves in a position that can do something so hurtful to other people,” Foster said.

Nichter is scheduled for a hearing at 10 a.m. today in Indianapolis at the United States District Court of Southern Indiana. Foster, a public defender appointed to the case because Nichter could not afford an attorney, said she already has worked out a plea agreement for her client.

Nichter will plead guilty to the eight counts of mail fraud, she said, in exchange for the federal government dismissing the additional eight counts of aggravated identity theft.

Tim Horty, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, could not confirm the plea deal prior to the hearing. But he said a federal charge of mail fraud has a maximum 20-year sentence, and Nichter also faces a fine of $250,000.

Foster said she will wait until the sentencing hearing — which has not yet been scheduled — to tell Nichter’s story of what caused him to steal from his clients.

“He’s always accepted responsibility here for what he did,” she added. “He paid full restitution for the victims. He cooperated with law enforcement in the investigation.”

But that’s just not true, according to victim and former Greenfield mayor Brad DeReamer.

DeReamer, who knew Nichter for 25 years, said he has not heard from his former friend since Nichter was indicted.

While he got his money back from Nichter’s former firm, Cantella & Co., DeReamer said he and his wife, Sharon, never received a dime from Nichter personally, nor an apology.

“It sounds like he’s working (his attorney),” DeReamer said. “It sounds like ‘Poor Ron,’ but that’s not acceptable to me.”

Nichter served alongside DeReamer on the Greenfield Board of Works from 2008 to 2012. He also was a member of the Greenfield Rotary Club.

The victims in the case all have one thing in common: They all trusted Nichter, said Indiana State Police Sgt. Mitch Blocher, who assisted in the investigation.

Some were friends, some were close acquaintances, but many were elderly clients who wouldn’t have realized what Nichter was doing, Blocher said.

“To me, it was particularly heinous because he was preying on old people who were very trusting of him,” Blocher said. “Most people didn’t know the difference between a money market or a 401(k) or a stock or whatever, so it was easy for him to trick them into thinking that the things that he was doing were just losses. Or, ‘We had a bad week in the stock market, I need you to sign this.’ And they had no idea what they were signing.”

The victims lived in Greenfield, Pendleton, Anderson, Shirley and Clearwater, Florida. Several of the checks written on Nichter’s clients’ accounts were for $10,000; some were for $5,000; and one was for $3,500, records state. But what hurt even more, victims said, was Nichter’s bad investing.

Shirley resident Charlie Sloneker, 66, said Nichter lost $400,000 of his own money from poor investing.

“I met him through a friend, and at that time, we thought he was all honest and decent,” Sloneker said. “I think he used us. The first year he worked to make us money, and from then on, he worked to make him money.”

Sue Nuyda said it hurt when she read Nichter’s 2013 interview with the Daily Reporter in which he said he had apologized to his clients and paid them back.

“I never got an apology, and I never got a nickle,” said Nuyda, a former Greenfield resident who now lives in Wisconsin.

Nuyda trusted Nichter. They were bleacher buddies, their children having grown up in sports together.

“He invested a lot of money very poorly,” she said. “He lost 70 percent of my portfolio.”

The DeReamers, who now live in Fishers, said they might attend Nichter’s sentencing hearing, in which victims could be called to testify.

Sharon DeReamer distinctly remembers a conversation she had with Nichter, telling him she would trust him financially should anything happen to her husband. Looking back, she said perhaps the conversation was a premonition of what was to come.

“I gave him a hug and told him if I ever found out that he was not trustworthy, I would be absolutely heart-crushed,” she said. “And that was during the time he was doing this. That was how much faith I had in him, because he would have been my rock in case something would have happened to Brad.”

The DeReamers have some words of wisdom for others who hand their investments to a money manager: Don’t do business with a friend, they say, and take the time to read each monthly statement.

Blocher, who investigates white-collar crimes for the state police, said Nichter’s case came to light when victims started noticing unusual transactions in their accounts.

“I believe he picked the people he victimized by preying on those people he knew he had the trust from and wouldn’t question him,” Blocher said. “It would almost be easier to stomach if some stranger came in and robbed them on their bank accounts. But this was a guy most people had known for years and trusted.”