The founder of BH Group, a Toledo firm that sold Iraqi currency to investors under what federal prosecutors allege were false pretenses, denied any wrongdoing from the witness stand Thursday in U.S. District Court.
Bradford Huebner, 66, of Ottawa Hills told the jury he bought the currency known as dinar for himself as far back as 2005 and later began selling it because he “wanted to help people.” He said he wanted to share the wealth he still “unequivocally” believes will result when the Iraqi government revaluates its currency.
“I think this is the largest macroeconomic event of a lifetime,” he said.
Mr. Huebner, Charles Emmenecker, 67, of Sylvania, and Michael Teadt, 67, of Maumee are on trial on charges they conspired to defraud investors of more than $23 million by selling dinar and placements in two nonexistent hedge funds from 2010 to 2011.
Mr. Huebner told the jury he didn’t know a hedge fund from a hedgehog when his former business partner, Rudolph Coenen of Bayshore Capital Investments in Jacksonville proposed selling $750 seats in a hedge fund for dinar investors.
Coenen, 47, last year pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and five counts of money laundering in the case and testified at the men's trial last week.
Mr. Huebner said he trusted and repeated what would turn out to be lies that Coenen had told him about himself: that he was a former vice president at JP Morgan Chase and had been wounded as a Marine fighting in Iraq. He said he never checked into Coenen’s background but had no reason to doubt his word. He also said Coenen’s role in the dinar business was golden.
After Mr. Emmencker began helping him conduct conference calls about dinar investments, they invited Coenen to participate and the business exploded, Mr. Huebner said.
“It was startling,” he said. “I’ve been in business 40-some years, and I never saw anything like it in my life ... people telling people telling people.”
Under cross-examination by Gene Crawford, an assistant U.S. attorney, Mr. Huebner insisted he never intentionally misled investors.
“I always said, ‘Treat this as an investment, not a lottery ticket. Knowledge is king,’” Mr. Huebner said.
He said when he learned in 2011 about potential problems with the hedge funds and the falsehoods in Coenen’s past, he went to the FBI. His office and home were raided by agents later that day.
“I go to the FBI to report that I think I’m being conned, and the next thing I know, I’m stripped of everything I own and treated like a criminal,” he said.
In addition to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud, Mr. Huebner is charged with mail fraud and multiple counts of money laundering and structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements. Cash deposits of more than $10,000 require filing of currency transaction reports.
He admitted on the stand he often made deposits under $10,000 because bank employees had told him if his deposit was more than $10,000, he would have to fill out a form. He said he did not know he was doing anything illegal.
The trial is to resume today.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: email@example.com or 419-213-2134.