A Cleveland man was sentenced Thursday, May 10, for defrauding investors out of more than $1 million in timber rights.
Elmer Swain Stewart, 67, was given two years in prison for wire fraud with a subsequent three years of supervised release. He is also ordered to pay $218,000 in restitution.
“Stewart’s victims trusted him with much of their retirement savings and gave him thousands of dollars to invest,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak in a statement. “In return, this greedy defendant stole from his investors and used their money to fund his lavish lifestyle.”
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Stewart defrauded 18 individuals by telling them about land with harvestable timber stands, and the alleged investment was to bid on the timber tracts.
“Stewart’s representations that he would use his investors’ money as earnest money or down payments on timber bids were fraudulent. Instead, Stewart used the investors’ money to pay for a lavish lifestyle for himself that he could not otherwise afford,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Stewart was using the money for rent on a $1.5 million horse farm as well as trips to Alaska, Hawaii and other locations.
The bids from the investors ranged from $5,000 to $50,000 and totalled more than $1 million.
One of the victims told the U.S. Attorney’s Office that Stewart’s actions “devastated our retirement and the retirements of many other people” and “demonstrate nothing but greed.”