A 38-year-old Ashburn man was sentenced to seven years in prison for carrying out a $5 million Ponzi scheme in which he told investors he was going to buy a Loudoun County golf course.
Prosecutors said Brett A. Amendola defrauded more than a dozen victims, some who invested their life savings and retirement.
U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride, in court papers, called the fraud "callous and base."
"He looted their dreams. He took their very happiness," MacBride said.
Amendola then squandered the money on gambling and reckless investments until there was nothing left, MacBride said.
During 2010 and 2011, Amendola persuaded investors to give him funding while he said he was trying to purchase the Beacon Hill Golf Course in Loudoun County, officials said.
He posed as the lawyer representing an escrow account connected to the golf course purchase and led investors to believe they were wiring the money into an escrow account. Instead, the money was actually wired to accounts Amendola controlled.
Although Amendola told investors he would pay them back with interest in a matter of days, he actually used their money to fund his and his family members' trading accounts, to make payments to investors in this and other schemes and to pay personal expenses, officials said.
In a related case last week, Jerry J. Mckerac, 61, of Las Vegas, was indicted with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identify theft for his involvement in the scheme. The indictment alleges Mckerac also impersonated the escrow attorney as well as Amendola's father while dealing with the victims.
According to charging documents, a single mother of two who lived on a school teacher's salary was persuaded to take out a $500,000 line of credit secured by her home, the sum total of her life's savings.
When the promised payout never came, Amendola put the woman off with checks that bounced and promises that were unfulfilled, prosecutors said.
Eventually, she lost her home, and became so crippled by the stress and depression that she could no longer leave her house, prosecutors said. She lost her job and was unable to work.