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Millionaire Who Faked Death Sobs in Court; Gets 4 Years

(AP Photo )
An August 31, 2008 photo obtained by The Associated Press shows investment manager Marcus Schrenker, 38, and his wife Michelle Schrenker.

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) An Indiana money manager who crashed his plane and parachuted to safety in an elaborate scheme to fake his death and flee financial ruin was sentenced Wednesday to more than four years in federal prison.

Marcus Schrenker, 38, sobbed and gave a rambling speech during a four-hour sentencing hearing. He apologized to air traffic controllers, his family, and residents of the Florida Panhandle town where his plane went down near some homes on Jan. 11.

"To this day I cannot believe I could do something so reckless and selfish," he told U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson on Wednesday. "I believe a divine force gently put the aircraft down in the swamp. It is my hope the residents of Milton feel my pain. If someone had gotten hurt, I do not know what I would do."

Also Wednesday, prosecutors in Hamilton County, Ind., added nine felony counts of fraudulent sale of securities to the two Schrenker already faced there. The state's Securities Division is working to recover lost money for people who invested with him, though it appears there's not much available. In Pensacola, Schrenker asked Vinson for a shorter sentence so he could work to make restitution and support his family.

Vinson ordered Schrenker to pay nearly $900,000 in restitution to the company that financed the single-engine Piper Malibu he destroyed and $35,000 to the U.S. Coast Guard for an extensive search and rescue effort.

He bailed out over Alabama and left the plane on autopilot in hopes it would drift to the Gulf of Mexico and he could run away from his failing marriage and business. Military jets that tried to intercept the plane got no response as it drifted for 200 miles until it ran out of fuel and crashed in the town of Milton. No one was hurt.

Schrenker's estranged wife, father and stepmother watched stoically through the hearing as he cried loudly.

(AP)
A Sept. 15, 2008 photo obtained by The Associated Press shows investment manager Marcus Schrenker.

Vinson rejected Schrenker's request for a shorter sentence, saying he agreed with a prison psychiatrist who diagnosed him as a narcissist who lacked empathy and desired attention from women. Under federal guidelines, the judge could have given him an additional year in prison.

His wife filed for divorce Dec. 30, a day before Indiana police served a search warrant on his home and office. They seized computers, financial documents and evidence of recent document shredding, all within days of him losing a $533,000 judgment to an insurance company.

Schrenker was an amateur daredevil pilot whose high-flying lifestyle included planes, luxury cars and a 10,000-square-foot home in an upscale neighborhood known as "Cocktail Cove," outside Indianapolis where affluent boaters often socialized.

Schrenker said Wednesday that his life was out of control and that he didn't know what he was doing when he got in his plane.

"I was melting down," he said. "My wife tried to take me to a hospital. Skip (his counselor) did too and I turned them down and I just think that if I hadn't been so egotistical and narcissistic, I wouldn't have wasted everyone's time."

But U.S. Attorney Tiffany Eggers said Schrenker's behavior was part of a lifelong pattern of lies and manipulation.

She showed a videotaped deposition in a 2008 lawsuit in which Schrenker told attorneys he was seriously ill with multiple sclerosis, something that was never revealed in any of his flight or prison records.

(YouTube)
Image: Pilot Marcus Schrenker, from a video posted on YouTube.

He lied separately to his stepmother and father in recent jail phone calls. He also told a girlfriend he was entering a witness protection program and wouldn't be returning to Indiana. He later sent her a cryptic text message asking her to meet him at a place they had vacationed in the Florida Keys.

Eggers pointed to careful steps Schrenker took to stash a motorcycle in an Alabama storage unit near where he bailed out of the plane, make a false driver's license and take cash with him.

"This was the next logical step for this man, the gig was up and he decided to fake his own death," she said.

Vinson ordered Schrenker transferred to a federal prison in Indiana.

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