A former Brentwood securities broker is now a fugitive from justice after failing to show up for trial this morning on fraud charges in Nashville's federal court.
Phil Russell has been under indictment since December 2007 for his alleged part in a scheme to defraud several elderly Southern Kentucky residents out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. He faced trial today along with two co-defendants, Ann Scarborough of Hopkinsville and Ken Kennedy of Clarksville.
After discovering Russell was absent, U.S. District Court Judge William J. Haynes issued a bench warrant for his arrest. His attorneys, Will Hawkins and Jonathan Farmer of Jones Hawkins & Farmer, promptly asked Haynes for permission to withdraw from the case, and the judge granted their motion. Hawkins declined comment when reached after today's court proceedings.
In a pre-trial brief filed yesterday, the government detailed its case against Russell and his co-defendants as well as Sheila Kennedy, wife of Ken Kennedy, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering last year and faces sentencing in November.
Starting in 2006, the filing claims, Russell used his position as a registered representative of securities firm Royal Alliance to help Sheila Kennedy sell investments. The money supposedly went into sure-fire real estate investments that were meant to provide handsome returns on the short-term promissory notes issued by Kennedy to Russell's clients.
In reality, prosecutors say, there were no property investments. Instead, Kennedy turned to Russell as a co-conspirator after she had tapped out all the friends and neighbors she and her husband could solicit in and around Hopkinsville.
According to a 2009 article in Hopkinsville's Kentucky New Era, several of those alleged victims were longtime friends of the Kennedys. Ken Kennedy was a former city attorney for Cadiz, Ky., and the couple had been featured in a 2005 article in the same publication that discussed the work of their Ken and Sheila Kennedy Hands for Jesus Foundation, whose purpose, Ken Kennedy said, was to "look for creative ways to honor Christ."
After she began raising funds with Russell, the two of them opened an office in Green Hills for their investment venture. "Kennedy and Russell also began traveling together — alone and sometimes with others — to New York, the Caribbean, Mexico and elsewhere and spending lavishly on consumer goods, office furnishings, cars, gambling, and luxury accommodations," the trial brief states.
In the summer of 2007, according to the filing, Sheila Kennedy and Russell left Nashville "with their office rent unpaid and with their cars in an off-site airport garage, where they were later repossessed." They spent several months living in hotels and spending money in and around Manhattan and Atlantic City.
"Kenneth Kennedy remained in Kentucky, soliciting money from yet more victims," and depositing some of the money in Russell's bank account to fund the lifestyle of his wife and Russell up north, the brief says.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority permanently barred Russell from the securities industry in December 2009. The agency's records state: "Russell received $1,248,750 from public customers for investment in promissory notes issued by an individual. The individual defaulted and the customers received none of their original investment."
Judge Haynes this morning postponed the trial of the remaining defendants for two days.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ty Howard, who is trying the case, declined to comment on it when reached today.
- ALEX B FRUIN INHERITANCE TRUST; CANDACE F STEFANSIC INHERITANCE TRUST; CANDANCE F STEFANSIC INHERITANCE TRUST; FRUIN, ALEX B TRUSTEE; FRUIN ALEX B INHERITANCE TRUST; STEFANSIC, CANDACE F TRUSTEE; STEFANSIC CANDACE F INHERITANCE TRUST; STEFANSIC CANDANCE F INHERITANCE TRUST
- ROSS, BRIDGETT D
- COOKE, ETHEN LANYARD TRUSTEE; COOKE, ETHEN LEWIS ESTATE
- JACOBS, JESSICA ALEXANDRA; JACOBS, ERIKA BESS