March 26, 2024

CLEVELAND, Ohio – A former financial adviser admitted Thursday to her role in what federal prosecutors called a Ponzi scheme that fleeced 54 investors out of $9.3 million.

Tara Brunst, 47, of Olmsted Falls, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to five charges, including conspiracy, wire fraud and mail fraud. She faces eight to 14 months in prison when Judge Dan Polster sentences her May 5.

Brunst worked with Raymond Erker and Kevin Krantz at an investment firm in Westlake. In documents, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian McDonough said the three ran a Ponzi scheme, a financial scam that uses new clients’ money to pay those who initially invested. He said in court filings that Brunst helped recruit people to invest in the scheme.

The scheme began in 2013 and ran until 2018, prosecutors said. Brunst began working there in 2015.

During the hearing Thursday, McDonough said Brunst was responsible for the loss of between $150,000 and $250,000. He cited her limited time at the business.

An investor, Thomas Cooper, told Polster that Brunst met with him about his investments. She also emailed and talked with him and introduced him to Erker, who owned the businesses.

Cooper said Brunst abused his trust, which led to the loss of his life savings.

Erker and Krantz are to go to trial March 1 on similar charges before Polster. Erker is also charged with money laundering and making false statements under oath. Erker and Krantz have denied the allegations.

“We understand that Miss Brunst made…

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