(CN) – The 11th Circuit affirmed a 13-year sentence for the mastermind of a Bahamian real estate investment scam endorsed by pro-football legend Joe Montana that bilked investors of $8.3 million.
Lawrence Foster, president of Paradise is Mine, defrauded more than 100 investors of approximately $8.3 million by purporting to sell real estate on Rum Cay, an island in the Bahamas.
Foster claimed to own the title to 16,000 acres of land on the island, when that land was actually held in the name of a Bahamian company owned by a convicted felon and embroiled in litigation over title to the land.
His company targeted investors who had recently lost money in the stock or precious-metals markets, offering to give them credit towards a real estate investment if they transferred their interest in their current investment to Paradise is Mine.
Paradise is Mine was endorsed by pro-football icon Joe Montana, who allowed his image and name to be used in exchange for a parcel of Rum Cay land.
Many investors testified that they agreed to invest with Paradise is Mine because they believed that Montana had done so.
Foster also falsified positive newspaper reports about his company purportedly published in USA Today and The Wall Street Journal to give investors the impression that his company was legitimate.
None of the investors who gave Foster money ever obtained title to land in Rum Cay – not even Montana.
Foster was sentenced in 2015 to 152 months in prison for his role in the scam, and ordered to pay $8.1 million in restitution (the full amount of the loss, minus some repayments already made).
The 11th Circuit affirmed Foster’s sentence.
“There is no evidence that Foster created PIM for any purpose other than to commit fraud,” said U.S. Circuit Judge Ronald Lee Gilman of the Sixth Circuit, sitting by designation.
As the district court found, most of investors’ money went straight to Foster’s pockets, and to pay exorbitant commissions to PIM sales representatives.
“The district court did not err in finding that Foster provided no value to the investors,” Gilman said.
The court dismissed allegations of juror misconduct during deliberations based on a juror’s post-verdict letter to the trial judge, which claimed that other jurors bullied her into reaching a guilty verdict, which she later regretted.
“The juror’s letter describes nothing more than typical features of jury deliberations,” Gilman said.