Former City-County councilor pleads guilty to fraud, money laundering charges

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A former Indianapolis City-County councilor pleaded guilty Wednesday in connection with a $1.7 million fraud scheme, announced federal prosecutors.

Paul Bateman, Jr., 53, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering.

Bateman, Michael L. Russell, founder of the Russell Foundation, and Manuel Gonzalez, who held various positions at the foundation, were accused of defrauding an Indiana physician of about $1.7 million and using the money for personal expenses.

The Russell Foundation, an Indianapolis-based organization founded in 2003 by Michael Russell, was a nonprofit which was supposed to provide community leadership and poverty relief.

On Jan. 17, 2013, Russell pleaded guilty to 20 counts filed against him, including wire fraud and money laundering charges, and admitted to defrauding the investor over the course of six months.

Early in 2007, Russell and his alleged co-conspirators solicited $702,000 in investment money from a victim in Indianapolis. Russell told the investor that he planned to fund the foundation by investing in ethanol production through a company called Indiana Ethanol Capital Investments, which was organized as a limited liability corporation in 2007, with Paul Bateman listed as president. Bateman also allegedly served as “Chief Administrative Officer” and the “Chief Corporate Officer.”

Bateman allegedly accepted five checks totaling $702,000 between February and April, 2007, almost all of which was deposited in Bateman’s personal bank account and spent on expenses other than the production and distribution of ethanol over the next 45 days. Later that same year, the conspirators solicited another $1 million in a corporate bond for the Russell Foundation. This sum was spent over 33 days.

Russell admitted to buying things with that money, including: entertainment, more than $25,000 in clothing, jewelry, travel, eight vehicles with a combined purchase price of $228,000, the payment of Bateman’s personal income tax liability, the payment of Russell’s rent for his residence, and various personal checks.

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