CLEVELAND - A 63-year-old former California attorney facing theft and corruption charges has pleaded guilty following an exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation.
Marc Tow was the subject of an extensive series of investigative reports beginning February 2012 that found investors lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and 150 homes in Cleveland were left abandoned and foreclosed.
In court Tuesday, Tow pled guilty to theft, money laundering and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.
He faces a maximum of 14 years in prison, although a plea agreement could bring two to 7 years behind bars.
It remains up to the discretion of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Steven Gall to determine the amount of time Tow spends in prison.
In Court today, Gall acknowledged that a competency evaluation ordered after Tow initially claimed he did not understand the charges against him found that he was, in fact, competent to stand trial.
Tow had previously entered a not guilty plea in Cuyahoga Common Pleas Court.
In Court Tuesday, Tow admitted that he now fully understands and freely enters a guilty plea to the charges.
Cuyahoga Prosecutor Gregory Mussman told the court that his office reviewed 65,000 documents related to the case and determined that Tow was behind the foreclosure and fraud involving 194 homes in Cuyahoga county between 2008 and 2011.
In an exclusive interview in January 2012, Tow admitted his role but insisted "others were involved in this big game" and insisted someone had "forged his name" to closing documents on real estate.
A business associate, Michael Alexander, denied any wrongdoing in subsequent interviews and blamed
Tow for misleading him about the nature of the company known as EZ Access Funding, based in Newport Beach, Calif.
The business closed its doors, and both Tow and Alexander disappeared.
In court, it was revealed that EZ Access Funding collected at least $5 million from investors and under the law, Tow could be fined three times that amount.
He will be required to pay $300 thousand in restitution to victims who were misled in the fraud.
He could also be forced to pay $250 thousand in cost entailed in the investigation and prosecution.
A Cuyahoga County grand jury indicted Tow on theft, money laundering, telecommunications fraud and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity on August 2012 .
Tow was extradited from California in January and just last month told a judge that he did not understand the charges against him.
A competency evaluation was ordered in June and the results are expected to be reviewed during Tuesday's hearing and possible plea change.