FORT MILL, S.C. -- A federal grand jury in South Carolina has indicted the operators of defunct Fort Mill mortgage company Advantage Financial Corp., for fraud.

Operators Craig Keith Richards and Thomas Martin Brandenberg II are charged with diverting money from escrow accounts to pay for lavish personal expenses.

The indictment alleges that real estate investors had deposited up to $3.4 million in the escrow accounts, which were to be set aside strictly for real estate costs.

But Fort Mill real estate developer Hugh Wink Rea sued Advantage Financial Corp., and won a judgment of more than $500,000, alleging that the operators used the money for lavish trips to places like Miami Beach and Atlantic City.

Rea invested $173,000 but a York County judge tripled the damages, writing that he found the reprehensibility of the defendant's be particularly egregious.

Paul Robert Lindemann, who was at the time a York County councilman, accompanied Advantage Financial Corp.'s operators on trips to South Beach in Miami and Harrah's Casino in Atlantic City, where company charge card records show the firm spent tens of thousands of dollars on luxury car rentals, multiple cash withdrawals, hotels, restaurant and bar bills, including more than $600 at a strip club called the Booby Trap.

Lindemann denied he gambled or went to the strip bar, telling the NewsChannel 36 I-Team he wouldn't go if I was invited. Lindemann was not re-elected and now faces a federal charge of making a false statement in a $979,500 loan application unrelated to Advantage Financial.

Lindemann, Richards and Brandenburg have all pleaded not guilty and are free on bond awaiting trial.

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