Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Jury ready to consider case of alleged investor bilking



By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - Chad Copeland created an illusion that millions of dollars were flowing - and he also created real victims who lost real money, Assistant Prosecutor Dan Ferguson told a Butler County jury after testimony in Copeland's trial concluded Tuesday.

But Copeland's lawyer, Frank Schiavone, said his client should be added to the list of victims. If investors were upset over how Copeland used their money, "sue him. But don't prosecute him."

Copeland was prosecuted, Ferguson said, because his conduct was criminal. Copeland cheated banks by passing bad checks back and forth, Ferguson said, and he stole from investors.

A jury of nine women and three men is expected to begin deliberations today on 23 theft, money laundering and other charges against Copeland, 37. Since the trial began a week ago in Common Pleas Judge Keith Spaeth's courtroom, more than a half-dozen prosecution witnesses have testified.

But no defense witnesses took the stand. Copeland's lawyer said he chose not to offer any testimony because he didn't have to; the prosecution didn't prove its case.

But Ferguson said the jury has all the evidence it needs to convict Copeland on all counts.

Copeland's activities are documented in hundreds of pages of bank transactions and other financial records, Ferguson said.

There are other ways to interpret that evidence, Schiavone argued. He also displayed checks his client wrote to further his plan to establish "Hot Diggity Dog" hot dog restaurants: $2,500 to an architect, $5,000 for workers' uniform shirts and $16,000 for meat package labels. "A con man doesn't do that," Schiavone told the jury repeatedly.

Ferguson said he didn't care about Copeland's purported business plans - what matters is what Copeland did with other people's money and how that affected people who trusted him.

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E-mail jmorse@enquirer.com




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