A Cedar Rapids man accused of bilking investors out of thousands of dollars escaped the last day of his trial but not authorities as they thwarted his planned getaway to India on Wednesday.
Alan Lucas, 43, is now in a Wisconsin jail after being arrested for failure to appear at his trial where a Linn County jury convicted him of ongoing criminal conduct and first-degree theft Wednesday. He faces up to 35 years in prison. He could also face another five years if convicted of the failure to appear charge.
According to trial testimony, Lucas purchased Convenant Investment Fund from an associate, Noah Aulwes, in May 2010 and Aulwes transferred nearly $190,000 in the fund to Lucas, but the 40 investors were not informed of the transaction.
Lucas then took the investors’ funds and paid off his personal credit card, rent for his company Asherlee Management, property taxes, purchased a BMW and other items, Assistant Iowa Attorney General Rob Sand, who prosecuted Lucas, said Thursday.
Lucas claimed at trial that he was the general partner of the fund and had a right to the assets of the company, but according to terms of the fund the contract was between the investors and general partner Noah Aulwes, Sand said.
The jury took only 50 minutes to convict Lucas, Sand said.
Mike Lahammer, Lucas’ attorney, said he received an email from Lucas Tuesday morning saying he had to go home to Wisconsin for an “emergency.” Then Lucas’ mother informed the court that her son had a plane ticket bound for India and was leaving the country on Thursday.
Lahammer said the trial continued and the jury was instructed not to speculate on why the defendant wasn’t there for the remainder of the trial.
“I was prepared for trial with or without my client,” Lahammer said. “It was definitely a first for me.”
Sand said Wisconsin authorities found Lucas Wednesday and arrested him for failure to appear.
Lahammer and Lucas had a contentious relationship and Lahammer attempted to withdraw as his attorney a few months ago because Lucas wouldn’t talk to him about the case and his defense because he argued Iowa courts had no jurisdiction over his companies, Convenant Investment Fund and Covenant Asset Management, because they were formed in Delaware.
Lucas at a hearing in March argued that under Delaware law he has immunity and this should have been a civil matter, not a criminal case. During that hearing he ranted, and made disparaging remarks to Lahammer and the court.
Two judges denied his motions on jurisdiction, ruling the court was within its jurisdiction to try the case.
Aulwes, 55, of Cedar Rapids, was convicted for misappropriating about $200,000 of investors’ funds for his personal benefit and making Ponzi-type payments to other investors, along with about $90,000 of clients’ funds that were invested in the Philippines. Aulwes began soliciting investments in 2007 from older residents of Iowa and North Carolina, according to court documents.
Aulwes pleaded guilty to securities fraud, first-degree theft and money laundering last December, and is serving a 10 year sentence and was ordered to pay $363,000 in victim restitution.
Sand said he will also ask the court to order Lucas to pay $130,000 in victim restitution. No sentencing date is set at this time.
Last month, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the Iowa Attorney General’s Office civil judgment awarded last year for more than a $1 million against Lucas and eight businesses he controlled. Lucas was accused of engaging in a pattern of fraudulent conduct for the purpose of bilking investors out of more than $150,000 they believed they had invested with Aulwes.