A sharp attorney representing the victims of a $10m Ponzi schemer found a way to get justice for his clients, at the sentencing of the criminal who promised them a 50% return in six months for their investment, in US District Court in California*. The defendant, an Iranian-American who preyed upon people who borrowed money against their homes, to raise funds for him, got a nasty surprise at his sentencing.
The lawyer cleverly filed, just five days before the sentencing hearing, a 100-page memorandum of law, on behalf of the victims, detailing all the sins and transgressions of the defendant, including some facts apparently not known to the Court, such as his purchase of a $400,000 Lamborghini for the defendant's brother, his attempts upon the lives of two victims, the fact that he represented a danger to the public, and the fact that he drew out $490,000, in cash, to support a lavish lifestyle.
At sentencing, defense counsel requested a continuance to respond, but the Court refused, saying that the defendant knew that the victims were going to appear, and give testimony, and that he should have been prepared. The hearing proceeded on schedule. The US Attorney's Office had asked for eight years; the US Probation Office, in its Pre-Sentence Investigation Report, calculated a ten year sentence. The defense asked for four years, in its filings. Cases involving similar amounts of loss were shown to generally result in 10-year sentences.
The Court then pronounced its sentence; eighteen years, a total surprise to the defendant and his attorney, who took an appeal to the Ninth Circuit, and oral argument was recently held. Will the appeals court remand the case for re-sentencing ? We shall be monitoring the file, and report back when the decision is published. Even if the sentence is overturned, and the case sent back down for a new sentencing hearing, the Ponzi schemer felt the wrath of the victims the day of sentencing, I am certain of it. I hope he has had many sleepless nights in custody, for ruining the lives of his victims.
In the meanwhile, the innovative lawyer for the victims may have just hit upon a valuable, but seldom used, tool to see that justice is served, to give victims at least some amount of satisfaction, when a Ponzi schemer steals their money, and spends it on himself.
* United States vs. Kaveh Vahedi, Case No.: 12-cr-00380-DDP (CD CA).