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January 30, 2004

Sentencing hearing set for Erpenbeck

From: Cincinnati Post, OH - Jan 30, 2004

By Bob Driehaus
Post staff reporter

Benjamin Young liked working for the Erpenbeck Co. as a draftsman just fine until the home builder closed in spring 2002, said his wife, Jane Young.

But when she saw that Bill Erpenbeck was using her husband's deafness to bolster his case for clemency in his upcoming sentencing for a bank fraud conviction, she was livid.

"It just shows what scum he is to be stooping that low to use people with handicaps," Young said of Erpenbeck. "It just shows how low people go to save their own skin."

In a deal made with federal prosecutors, Erpenbeck pleaded guilty on April 9, 2003, to one count of bank fraud for leading a scheme that stole $33 million across the tri-state from homebuyers and the banks that loaned Erpenbeck Co. and its affiliates money to build homes. He faces a sentencing hearing on March 29 at which U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott can dole out anything from probation to 30 years in prison.

Dlott will be guided by a pre-sentencing report compiled by Erpenbeck's probation officer, opinions gathered from victims at a hearing on Feb. 26 and objections to the presentencing report that will be considered Feb. 6.

Sources familiar with the investigation said Erpenbeck is likely to be sentenced to about 10 years in prison.

Erpenbeck attorney Glenn Whitaker filed a memorandum Jan. 23 urging no prison time for his client.

That appeal includes 24 letters from family members, friends and prominent Northern Kentuckians, including University of Kentucky Trustee Alice Sparks, Northern Kentucky University baseball coach Bill Aker and attorney Eric Deters.

Sparks, a former NKU trustee, said she was impressed with Erpenbeck's conscientious work trying to help create a football team at NKU, and she appreciated condolences he extended after her husband died in 1998.

"Bill was one of the first to express his sympathy and his understanding as he was, at that time, still a widower, and it was apparent he had great empathy with me," Sparks wrote.

Jane Young was not one who lined up in support of Erpenbeck, and she objects to what she sees as an exploitation of her husband's disability and an insult to his ability as a draftsman.

Benjamin Young, who lives with his wife in Boone County, Ky., got a crack at working as a draftsman, creating blueprints for the home builder, on a trial basis, his wife said.

"He didn't come there out of charity. He was only hired full time after he proved himself. It just irks me for him to be thrown before a judge and be used as an example for (Bill Erpenbeck) to say, 'Look, I helped handicapped people, and you should give me a lighter sentence,' because that's totally untrue," she said.

Whitaker said the reference to Young, anonymously referred to as a "deaf and dumb" draftsman, was not exploitive.

"I don't know what to say about it. The facts are as set forth in the memorandum. I'm sorry she (Jane Young) has some (bad) feelings. I'm sure her husband didn't like losing his job, and I know Bill Erpenbeck didn't like having to lay off all those employees," he said.

"All we talked about is that there is another side of Bill Erpenbeck that certainly hasn't been presented by you guys" (in the news media).

The auction of Bill Erpenbeck's possessions will take place at Most of the 17 items approved for sale in U.S. District Court earlier this month are previewed on the Web site.

Auction items

The auction of Bill Erpenbeck's possessions will take place at Most of the 17 items approved for sale in United States District Court earlier this month are previewed on the Web site, including:

• A red 2001 BMW 325 convertible with 26,693 miles on it.

• A pair of 18-karat gold diamond earrings with a French clip back, with each earring containing 18 invisible set princess cut diamonds.

• Five Washington Redskins jerseys autographed by team luminaries, including Sonny Jurgensen, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien.

• An 18-karat gold Rolex Submariner watch.

Copyright 2004 The Cincinnati Post, an E.W. Scripps newspaper.