A former San Fernando Valley investment banker and church leader suspected of defrauding investors out of $3 million must remain in federal prison while he awaits trial, a federal judge ruled Monday.
During a brief bail hearing in U.S. District Court downtown, Judge A. Andrew Hauk said O. Monroe Marlowe--recently extradited from West Germany--might flee the area if released on bail.
"What makes you think if he were set free now he wouldn't flee again?" Hauk asked defense attorney J. Brendan O'Neill.
Marlowe, 74, is charged in an indictment with defrauding 10 couples, all senior citizens, of about $350,000 by persuading them to put up money for phony real-estate loans. But federal investigators said Marlowe may have defrauded dozens of people out of up to $3 million. His alleged victims invested in phony commodities and bogus businesses as diverse as a windmill company and a fig orchard, authorities said.
Marlowe was extradited from West Germany Nov. 20. Assistant U.S. Atty. David Katz said Marlowe, who helped found the Valley State Bank of Encino and First Citizen's Bank of Sherman Oaks, had been under investigation by federal authorities when he fled his Van Nuys home a year ago.
Katz said Marlowe traveled to Oregon, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, France, Portugal and Spain before West German authorities arrested him in Frankfurt. He was taken into custody July 1 at the Frankfurt airport where he went to meet his daughter, who had flown in for a visit.
Marlowe, dressed in khaki shirt and pants, did not speak during the hearing Monday.
O'Neill maintained that Marlowe did not flee the United States. He said Marlowe left forwarding phone numbers and addresses before he began his travels--a contention challenged by prosecutors in court documents.
O'Neill, who said Marlowe's daughter was willing to put up her house as collateral, urged the judge to grant $50,000 bail. He said authorities could keep track of Marlowe by outfitting him with an electronic device that would alert them if he left his son's Canyon Country home.
"That's no good," Hauk replied. "Motion denied."
Marlowe remains in federal prison at Terminal Island. His trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 19.
In an April 16 indictment unsealed after his arrest in West Germany, Marlowe was charged with 30 counts of using the mail to defraud clients. The indictment said Marlowe, who lived in Van Nuys for 26 years, used his high standing in the community to attract investors to bogus schemes.
The indictment said Marlowe was once administrator of the First Baptist Church of Van Nuys, was active in the Faith Evangelical Church in Chatsworth and had served on the board of directors of the Greater Los Angeles Sunday School Convention.
J. Jill Crivelli, a postal inspector investigating Marlowe, said after the hearing that Marlowe met many investors through banks, churches, the Rotary Club and the Boy Scouts. Crivelli said the mail-fraud charges were based on individual investments ranging from $5,000 to $110,000.
Publicity about Marlowe's arrest prompted investors to contact federal investigators, Crivelli said. Some investors have held meetings to piece together what happened to their money. A few investors said they learned of Monday's hearing through fellow investors.
Sidney Bertram, who said he has known Marlowe for 15 years, was among the about 20 investors at Monday's hearing. Bertram, of San Luis Obispo, said he had received returns on previous investments with Marlowe but had gotten nothing from $50,000 he invested in some orange groves in 1985.
Leonard Snipper of Westchester said he met Marlowe through Bertram and invested $25,000 in fig orchards. He said his money has disappeared.
Marlowe could be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for each of the 30 counts against him if he is convicted, Crivelli said.