Jurors To Consider Whether Warner A Victim Or Participant
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ Jurors were asked Wednesday to decide whether financier Marvin Warner was a victim of fraud in the ESM Government Securities collapse or a cunning participant who profited at the expense of investors.
Closing arguments ended in the $21 million civil suit filed by ESM’s bankruptcy trustee against Warner at U.S. District Court here, only blocks from ESM’s former offices. Deliberations were expected Thursday.
The collapse of ESM led to the failure days later of Warner’s Home State Savings Bank in Cincinnati, ESM’s biggest customer.
″Everybody takes credit for discovering the ESM fraud, but no one knew about it until people from Home State were down here trying to find the truth,″ said Andrew Hall, Warner’s lawyer.
″It has not been proved he took part in the fraud. Warner is the biggest victim of this case,″ Hall said in closing statements to the six-member jury.
Hall said Warner, 69, lost at least $26 million of his own money, securities and real estate when ESM folded.
Jose Garcia-Pedrosa, attorney for ESM’s court-appointed trustee Thomas Tew, painted a different picture for jurors.
He described a jet-set world of complex and illegal transactions on corporate jets and at private Kentucky Derby cocktail parties.
Garcia-Pedrosa told jurors that Warner, a former U.S. ambassador to Switzerland, was tipped off to financial problems at ESM in time to pull out millions of dollars before the collapse.
″Help bring that money back to the estate of ESM,″ he urged jurors. ″No other creditor got out early.″
The lawsuit against Warner by the ESM estate originally sought more than $60 million. That figure has been reduced to $21 million by U.S. District Judge Jose A. Gonzalez Jr.
Warner, who filed for Chapter 11 financial reorganization in Jacksonville, placed his fortune in his family’s name, Tew charged.
″I think we could recover the money from his wife and son,″ Tew said.
Warner, looking tan and confident, nodded to jurors as they entered the courtroom and smiled as he made eye contact with each of them. The financier lives on a horse ranch in Ocala in north central Florida.
Warner has said he lost almost $30 million in 1985 when ESM failed with a total of $315 million in losses to investors.
ESM’s downfall also sank Home State, setting off a thrift crisis in Ohio and forcing that state to temporarily close 72 savings and loan associations.
Warner was convicted in Ohio last year of fraudulently transferring Home State funds to ESM. He was sentenced to three years in prison but is free on appeal.