An 81-year-old man has been sentenced to 28 years in prison in an investment scam that prosecutors say sweeped across half the country and bilked 1,800 people, many of them elderly, of about US $ 190 million.
John Heath, who was convicted last month alongside his son Daniel Heath and another man, also was ordered to pay US$ 117 million in restitution to the clients who invested directly through him.
He dabbed at his eyes during the hearing on February 22 and left court in a wheelchair. Jurors found the three guilty of running a Ponzi scheme that funneled money from new investors to pay off people who had already pumped in cash.
John Heath was convicted on 52 counts including grand theft, selling false securities and theft from the elderly.
About 100 letters from victims were sent to the Riverside County Superior Court, and about a dozen of them were read to Judge Ronald Taylor, said Ingrid Wyatt, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office. The notes talked about how the victims' lives had been affected after learning their investments with Daniel W Heath & Associates had been lost.
Some of Heath's adult children spoke at the hearing, pleading for leniency for their father. Heath's attorney, Chad Firetag, asked the judge for probation, citing his client's age and failing health. Firetag has said the elder Heath wasn't aware of the scam and had enough trust in his son that he plowed his own commissions back into the investments.