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Published: Saturday, 3/26/2005

Michigan man told to repay investment fraud of $200,545

HILLSDALE - A Coldwater, Mich. man has pleaded guilty in Hillsdale County Circuit Court to a misdemeanor fraud charge for bilking one of his best friends and his friend's family out of more than $200,000.

Edward Lockman, 56, was told by Judge Donald Sanderson that he had to pay $200,545 to Leslie and Constance Hutchinson, of Jonesville, Mich., and their children, Johncie Langston and John Hutchinson.

Mr. Lockman was placed on probation for two years. He has that amount of time to pay the debt, or he will have to serve one year in jail, Judge Sanderson said.

Beginning in 1999, Mr. Hutchinson, owner of Hutch's Food Center, Spring Arbor, Mich., and his family invested more than $300,000 with Mr. Lockman's investment company, Gazebo Investments.

Mr. Hutchinson also made investments with Mr. Lockman on behalf of his grandson.

Authorities said that Mr. Lockman sent Mr. Hutchinson and his family bogus statements, showing that the investments were successful. When Mr. Hutchinson wanted to cash in some of his investments, Mr. Lockman kept putting him off, making Mr. Hutchinson suspicious, said Detective Lance Benzing, of the county sheriff's office.But he declined to act because of his relationship with Mr. Lockman - they served as best man in each other's wedding.

Mr. Hutchinson eventually contacted authorities, who began an investigation into Mr. Lockman's company. Other unidentified investors also had problems with Mr. Lockman, but their less substantial investments were returned, Detective Benzing said.

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