According to an FBI press release dated September 11, 2013, Michael Rothenberg, former candidate for a seat on the DeKalb County Superior Court, pleaded guilty Wednesday to defrauding the owners of WinterHawk Energy and Development Corp.
U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates stated, the charges and other information presented in court, Michael Rothenberg, 35, deceitfully persuaded the owners of WinterHawk into investing $1.35 million. Rothenberg claimed the invested money would be placed in a trust account he controlled and that it would be used to fund the trading of notes by large financial institutions. These notes, according to Rothenberg, would be split into “tranches,” and a ten percent profit would be earned each time a note or “tranch” was traded. Rothenberg told the investors that the investment involved no risk.
The truth was, there was no investment made and Rothenberg used the money paid by WinterHawk to fund his political campaign for a seat on the DeKalb County Superior Court as well as to pay personal expenses
Rothenberg ultimately was unsuccessful in his bid for a judgeship. During the scheme, Rothenberg placated the investors’ concerns and lulled them into believing that the investment opportunity was real by e-mailing them fabricated bank statements, which made it appear as if the money they had invested remained in his trust account and that Rothenberg himself was wealthy. From time to time Rothenberg returned some of the money to the investors in response to their demands and claimed falsely that he was making up for the shortfall by personally investing his own money. But Rothenberg did not invest his own money and in fact spent the remaining proceeds—approximately $800,000—without the investors’ knowledge or consent.
The charge of wire fraud in this case carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. In determining the actual sentence, the court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
Sentencing has been scheduled for November 18, 2013, at 10:00 a.m.