MEDINAH, Ill. (WLS) -- An expert medical witness told a federal judge on Friday that accused investment con man Walter Ascher has "major cognitive disorder" and should not be put on trial.
Asher, 73, is charged with defrauding people by keeping millions of dollars they thought would be invested in a semi-truck business. Prosecutors say the northwest suburban man used the money to live the high life and at one point he owned expensive homes, a castle in Slovakia, sports cars and a yacht.
Chicago neuro-psychologist Dr. Diana Goldstein testified that Ascher told her he "was just fine" and wanted his trial to go forward. Goldstein determined though that Ascher has dementia and is too sick to face justice, a finding that did not sit well with his forsaken investors who showed up to watch Friday's proceeding in federal court.
"I'm a little bit angry about the doctor that today testified because when this whole thing started he was not ill, he did not have dementia" said Anna Kamysz whose says her parents invested and lost more than $1 million with Ascher. "He fully knew what he was doing, he could give a master class at being a con artist" Kamysz said.
Ascher was supposed to be in Chicago federal court for Friday's competency hearing, but has cancer and heart ailments according to attorney Jeff Steinback and was under a doctor's order not to travel. Steinback said he understands how frustrated and upset investors are but that "to suggest that somewhere between twelve and fifteen different physicians and maybe six or seven different medical facilities are somehow involved in the falsification of serious medical events that are each in their own right potentially terminal-is quite a quite an accusation."
Judge Elaine Bucklo ordered Ascher's attorney to turn over all medical records by September 15. Judge Bucklo also required Ascher to appear on October 4 for the rest of the hearing on whether he is competent to stand trial. If Bucklo determines that he is not fit for trial, he would then be remanded to the Attorney General to undergo a four-month mental evaluation likely in the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
In court, the parties discussed conducting the tests in a facility like the federal prison hospital in Rochester, Minnesota. That is the facility where former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was recently incarcerated for more than a year after pleading guilty in a hush money sex abuse case.
After court on Friday, alleged Asher victim Joan Anderson told the I-Team that they have been waiting since 2012 for the government to do something to help get investors' money back. Anderson said during that period she believes Ascher also had time to concoct an illness scheme.
Ascher's attorney maintains his client is terminally ill and has outlived the normal prognosis for someone in his condition. "You have an individual with metastatic colon cancer that has found its way into the liver, kidney, perhaps the abdominal area, and has advanced coronary disease, and has just had to have a pacemaker in a life and death event, and is also suffering from Alzheimer's type of dementia" said Steinback. "You're going to have a very difficult time finding a suitable facility to care for them properly."
He told investors "they're free to call me any time. One of them called me a high price lawyer. I don't know whether to take that as a compliment or not. I wish I was. However, I promise them if they'd like to talk to me I'm happy to answer any of their questions and I won't charge them a dime for doing so."
Accused con man claims ailments are not tall tale
An ABC7 I-Team Investigation