Possible fraud probe expands
BY BILL FREEHLING / THE FREE LANCE–STAR
Detectives investigating a Fredericksburg-area real estate investor for possible fraud have now identified almost 50 possible victims and $20 million in losses.
Fredericksburg police spokeswoman Natatia Bledsoe provided that update Wednesday in the investigation into the financial affairs of James Ashby Moncure. City police and the FBI are investigating the case under code sections involving obtaining money by false pretense and securities fraud.
Moncure, 41, is being investigated on claims that he borrowed money from people and did not use the funds for the stated purpose of making real estate investments in the Fredericksburg area. On March 4, he sent a long email to noteholders indicating that he would not be able to repay the promissory notes.
Though no charges have been filed, police say there could be a separate charge for each victim. Moncure has not been arrested, but police say they are aware of his current whereabouts.
As police pursue their investigation, parallel events are unfolding in Richmond bankruptcy court.
An involuntary Chapter 7 case was filed against Moncure last week by five members of the Higginbotham family, three of whom live in Spotsylvania County. Moncure consented to the bankruptcy process rather than contesting it.
Moncure, who is represented in the bankruptcy case by Robert M. Marino of Alexandria, this week asked the court to give him more time to file the required lists of creditors, assets, liabilities and other information.
Marino pointed out in the request that Moncure’s financial records were seized last month by FBI and Fredericksburg detectives, making it more difficult to submit the information by the original deadlines.
Marino asked the court to give Moncure until April 18 to submit a list of creditors, and until May 9 to file the remaining required financial information. He argued that the dates would not impact a meeting of creditors scheduled for 10 a.m. May 16 in Suite 4300 of Richmond’s federal courthouse, 701 E. Broad St.
Numerous individuals and companies have now stated claims against Moncure in state and federal courts or formally asked to be kept informed about the case. The list includes Silver Capital, the Higginbotham family, Union First Market Bank, Chantilly-based Smith Engineering, Mark Ryan Berg and Marifi Arbelo.
Several investors were told that the money would be used for land investments near the Quantico Corporate Center in North Stafford. In addition to being a QCC partner with his two brothers, Moncure owns all or parts of numerous properties, most of which are in the Fredericksburg area.
Mark Ryan Berg said in an interview Wednesday that he lent Moncure $77,000 from a second mortgage he took out on his house and got a 10 percent interest rate. He said his fiancée lent Moncure $100,000 from a life insurance payout she received when her husband died.
Berg said he grew up with Moncure and has known him for more than 30 years. He said he approached Moncure several years ago for advice on investing in real estate with his fiancée’s $100,000, which at the time was earning little interest in a bank CD. Berg said Moncure convinced them to invest the money with him in land deals around Quantico.
Berg said many of the people Moncure knew growing up also invested money with him. He said the success Moncure has had with real estate investments in the area helped convince many of the noteholders to invest with him.
Berg said he received the 10 percent payments from Moncure for some time, but grew concerned early this year when one payment came in late and another bounced. He got the email from Moncure not long after asking for his money back.
Richmond bankruptcy attorney Lynn L. Tavenner has been appointed as trustee in Moncure’s Chapter 7 case. She will be tasked with identifying, securing and potentially selling assets, and distributing any proceeds to creditors.
Another attorney for Moncure, Steven T. Webster of Alexandria, said in an email this month that he has been asked to make “appropriate arrangements” to repay Moncure’s lenders. He asked the community to withhold judgment until all the facts are known.
It is unclear how the borrowed money was used. Moncure, a former stockbroker, in his email referenced that he used an Ameritrade account and became overextended. The email also noted the risks of leverage and the options market.
Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405