A plea agreement was reached in Gage County District Court between prosecutors and a Nebraska City broker accused of defrauding investors out of more than $20 million.
Brian Schuster pleaded no contest Tuesday to four counts of indirect material omissions in connection with the offer, sale or purchase of securities.
Each count is a Class 4 felony carrying a maximum punishment of five years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both. If sentenced to prison, the sentences for each count could be served concurrently or consecutively.
Restitution can also be ordered at sentencing time.
As part of the agreement, the charges were amended from five counts to four counts. It also included different investors and different language. The previous charges, which were still considered Class 4 felonies, didn’t include the language that the act was an indirect omission.
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The state also agreed to make no specific recommendations as to length of incarceration at sentencing.
The charges stem from acts in late 2005 and early 2006 when Schuster, a former Nebraska football player, and Rebecca Engle were accused of improperly selling risky investments in several interrelated Florida companies to as many as 150 investors.
Engle had already agreed to plead guilty to two fraud charges and help prosecutors.
A two-week jury trial for Schuster began Monday morning. A jury was selected and both sides made their opening arguments. On Tuesday morning, however, both sides went into intensive negotiations to reach a deal.
Attorneys notified District Judge Paul Korslund of the negotiations and informed him that a deal had been reached. When the court reconvened at 1 p.m., however, it was determined that more time was needed.
The jury was dismissed and asked to return later in the afternoon. At about 4:30 p.m., Schuster entered his pleas of no contest and the jury was dismissed for good at 5 p.m.
Schuster’s attorney Rachel Alexander said it had been a long time since the defense had entertained any offers. She said they were prepared to go through with the trial, but said the state approached them Tuesday morning with a potential agreement.
After the proceedings ended Tuesday afternoon, Alexander said in regards to sentencing, anything beyond probation would be “completely inappropriate.”
In a prepared statement, Alexander said:
“Mr. Schuster could not have taken responsibility for the original charges but after the amended information was filed, he was willing to plead no contest to those charges in order to save his investors, the state and himself an arduous two week trial.
“He maintains that he did not commit any wrongful act with regards to his clients. He has spent four years helping them recover from their losses and will continue to help them in any way he can. He’s looking forward to closure and time with his loved ones.”
Schuster’s proceedings were moved from Otoe County to Gage County to assure a fair trial. His sentencing, however, will take place on Aug. 16 in the Otoe County District Courtroom in Nebraska City.