LOS ANGELES (CN) – A federal judge sentenced a Southern California man to 10 years in federal prison for masterminding a series of real estate and litigation fraud schemes that cost victims nearly $2 million.
When handing down the sentence, U.S District Judge Jesus G. Bernal said Jerome Arthur Whittington, 68, had “ruined the lives” of his victims by orchestrating such a complex and malicious strategy.
“Whittington’s criminal conduct was exceptional – the sheer volume and breadth of his fraudulent conduct is unlike anything I’ve seen from the bench,” Bernal said at Monday’s sentencing hearing.\
Whittington, a resident of the desert town of La Quinta in the Coachella Valley, pleaded guilty in May 2016 to 33 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud and passport fraud, according to a statement by U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Thom Mrozek.
Whittington defrauded his victims by posing as various figures, including a former federal prosecutor, a successful attorney, a special agent with the FBI, and a wealthy real estate investor.
In one scheme, Whittington posed as an attorney and falsely promised he could help recover a victim’s losses suffered from a separate fraudulent investment scheme involving two bogus companies.
Whittington told the victim he could seize assets from the two fraudulent companies but would requirement advance payments to “post bonds” that were required prior to seizing the assets.
After Whittington falsely claimed that he had obtained a $4 million judgment, he told the victim that “representatives from the companies and other victims were very angry and that he should leave the country to avoid confrontations and harassment,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Under the terms of the “reloading” scheme, the victim paid Whittington approximately $290,000 to recover the losses, which Whittington spent on personal expenses and for payments to other victims of his schemes.
During the sentencing hearing, one victim told Bernal that Whittington “ruined” his life by defrauding him out of retirement savings he’d built up over a 40-year career.
Bernal noted Whittington’s crime spree lasted nearly five decades.
“Whittington’s criminal history of defrauding people spanned from 1971 – 47 years,” Bernal said Monday. “Most people recidivate less when they become older. But Whittington started the [latest] schemes while he was in his 60s.”
Upon completion of his sentence, Whittington will be on supervised release for seven years. He was also ordered to pay nearly $1.7 million in restitution to victims.
Assistant U.S Attorney Jerry Yang of the Riverside Branch Office prosecuted the case.