PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Three executives of the now-inoperative Lake Oswego investment firm Aequitas Management, LLC, were found guilty Monday for their roles in a vast scheme that raised nearly $300 million from defrauded investors, prosecutors announced. 

Robert J. Jesenik, 62, the former CEO of Aequitas and a Lake Oswego resident; Andrew N. MacRitchie, 59, the company’s executive vice president who is formerly of Palm Harbor, Florida; and Brian K. Rice, 56, the executive vice president and a Portland resident, were all found guilty by a federal jury of conspiring with one another to commit mail and wire fraud and 28 individual counts of wire fraud. 

The jury also convicted Jesenik of making a false statement on a loan application. 

The trial lasted six weeks. 

“The length of this investigation and this trial demonstrates the full measure to which the FBI, and our law enforcement partners, will go to seek justice. Today’s conviction sends a message that you will be held accountable for corrupt financial practices,” said Kieran Ramsy, the special agent in charge of the FBI Portland Division. 

Ethan Knight, chief of the Economic Crimes Unit for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said it has been a years-long effort to hold the Aequitas executives accountable for cheating investors. 

Some of the victims of the scheme were participants in the employee pension benefit plan, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration. 

According to court documents, Jesenik, MacRitchie, Rice and others used Aequitas to solicit investments in a variety of ways and misrepresented Aequitas’ use of investor money from 2014 to 2016. The executives were also accused of misrepresenting the financial health and strength of the company and its subsidiaries and the risks associated with its investments and investment strategies. 

Together, the convicted executives did not disclose information like its near-constant liquidity and cash-flow crises, the use of investor money to repay other investors and to pay operating expenses, and the lack of collateral to secure funds, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon said. 

Aequitas was founded by Jesenick in 2005. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, its largest holdings were from various hospital networks, a consumer debt-consolidator, a motorcycle lender, and Corinthian Colleges. The student loans Aequitas owned from Corinthian Colleges totaled more than $200 million and were by far the company’s largest single category of receivables, prosecutors said. 

In 2014, after Corinthian’s graduation and job-placement rates weren’t meeting U.S. Department of Education standards, the department decided to defer the payment of federal-aid funds to the schools and Corinthian soon defaulted on its monthly recourse payment to Aequitas, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. This cost the company more than $4 million per month. 

Investigators said this set off a series of events that led to Aequitas’ own demise, including the executives committing financial crimes to conceal the company’s dismal financial picture, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. 

By 2014, Aequitas was unable to pay the debts it owed and by March 2016, the company collapsed. 

In 2019, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said former Aequitas executives Brian A. Oliver, 58, of Aurora, and Olaf Janke, 52, of Portland, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud and money laundering. 

Oliver and Janke will be sentenced on December 19, 2023 and June 20, 2023, respectively. As part of their plea agreements, they have agreed to pay restitution in full to their victims, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. 

On May 26, 2022, former Aequitas senior executive and chief financial officer Nelson Scott Gillis, 70, of Lake Oswego, pleaded guilty to making a false statement to a bank. He will be sentenced on June 27, 2023 and has also agreed to pay restitution, prosecutors say. 

Jesenik, MacRitchie and Rice could face up to 20 years in prison for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and wire fraud. They could also be fined a minimum of $500,000 per count of conviction. Making false statements on a loan application could result in up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.