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Fraud victim files civil suit against ex-councilor

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An Indianapolis physician who lost $1.7 million in a fraud scheme orchestrated in part by former Democratic City-County Councilor Paul C. Bateman Jr. has sued Bateman and two associates in Marion Circuit Court.

The civil suit comes as a criminal trial stemming from the case begins in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Jury selection began Monday morning in the trial of co-defendant Manuel Gonzalez, 53, who is facing three counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering.

Bateman, 58, pleaded guilty last month to 13 counts of money laundering and wire fraud. A third co-defendant, ringleader Michael Russell, 54, agreed to a plea deal a week earlier on 20 counts of wire fraud and money laundering.

The men are accused of persuading Dr. Arthur Sumrall to invest the money in their foundation and an ethanol-production business they said would fund it, but instead spent the money on personal luxuries.

Sumrall filed his civil suit seeking unspecified damages on Feb. 5. The lawsuit names all three criminal defendants and The Russell Foundation Inc., the not-for-profit the ethanol business was supposed to support.

The suit says the men solicited Sumrall's cash to invest both in ethanol production and development of a monorail system. It alleges the men used the funds "in a scheme of unauthorized selling and refinancing of vehicles purchased by The Russell Foundation."

"The titles were fraudulently signed by a law enforcement officer associated with the defendants," the suit alleges.

Bateman, along with Russell, also has agreed to pay back the $1.7 million they obtained from the physician, referred to as A.S. in the indictment filed in December 2011 against Russell, Bateman and Gonzalez.

According to the indictment, Russell approached the physician in January 2007 during a medical appointment about making an investment in an entity later established as Indiana Ethanol Capital Investments LLC. Russell, Bateman and Gonzalez attended several meetings with the doctor at a Denny's restaurant to further sell him on the investment.

Russell told the physician that the ethanol operation could reap an $18.5 million return on a $600,000 investment, and that he would be the last of 12 people to invest in it. In fact, the doctor was the only investor.

Between February 2007 and April 2007, according to court documents, Bateman picked up five checks for the ethanol investment totaling $702,000, most of which was deposited into Bateman’s personal account. The remainder was put into The Russell Foundation account, and later was transferred between that account and Bateman’s personal account.

The trio allegedly spent all but $30,000 of the money, purchasing seven cars, as well as custom clothing, home furnishings, entertainment and “elaborate security details” that included members of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, the indictment said.

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