Ex-councilor Bateman agrees to plead guilty to fraud charges

Paul C. Bateman Jr., a former Democrat city-county councilor, agreed to plead guilty Wednesday to 13 counts of money laundering and wire fraud for his part in defrauding an Indianapolis physician of $1.7 million.

Bateman, 58, filed his guilty plea with the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis on Wednesday morning—less than a week after the leader of the alleged fraud, Michael L. Russell, also pleaded guilty.

A third man charged for the fraud by U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett, Manuel Gonzalez, remains scheduled for trial on Feb. 11.

Bateman has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in a trial of Gonzalez or any other defendant. Hogsett has asked Judge Tonya Pratt to delay Bateman’s sentencing until after any trial of his co-defendants is finished.

Hogsett’s office suggested that Bateman’s prison time be limited to between 30 and 37 months. Federal guidelines require that criminal convicts serve at least 85 percent of their jail sentences.

Bateman, along with Russell, has also agreed to pay back the $1.72 million they obtained from a physician referred to as A.S. in the indictment filed in December 2011 against Russell, Bateman and Gonzalez.

According to that indictment, Russell—also known as Rev. Michael L. Russell—co-founded The Russell Foundation in 2003 and proposed that the foundation fund itself through the production and distribution of ethanol. Bateman served as chief administrative officer and chief corporate officer of the foundation.

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.

Bateman used $22,187.60 to pay his income taxes, according to the indictment, and also received two other checks from the Foundation’s funds totaling $62,000.

A call to Bateman's attorney, Kimberly Robinson, was not returned Wednesday morning. Hogsett has scheduled a press conference Wednesday afternoon to discuss the case.

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