Two Utah men convicted of fraud in separate business schemes that victimized real estate agents, construction company owners and homeowners were sentenced Monday.
Third District Court Judge Robin Reese sentenced Gary Carl Fornia, 47, to one to 15 years in prison and restitution of $31,545 for persuading construction and real estate companies to pay him to place ads prominently on Google.com. Many ads never got online prominent placements because Google was not paid. A jury in December found Fornia guilty of 11 second-degree felony counts of communications fraud and pattern of unlawful activity.
"I'm very sorry this has happened," Fornia said Monday, in a white Utah Department of Corrections prison suit with his hands cuffed behind him. "I apologize to everyone involved."
Fornia is serving two sentences for previous offenses, and the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole will determine how many years of Monday's sentence he will serve. His previous offenses are similar to the Google scheme, except they involved ads in phone books, said prosecutor Charlene Barlow with the Utah Attorney General's Office
Fornia hopes to get parole as soon as possible "so I can go ahead and make restitution on all my cases," he said. "I have other employment lined up when I'm released that's a totally different business."
The judge commented on how Fornia has repeated the same offense over the last decade. "It starts to look like a real scheme," Reese said.
In the courtroom of Judge Sheila McCleve, a Cedar Hills man who stole money from four people, including a 73-year-old widow, as part of an investment scheme avoided prison Monday in a plea agreement.
Even though McCleve said she wanted to incarcerate Michael D. Ostler, on state prosecutors' recommendation she ordered 36 months probation, 500 hours community service and restitution totaling $130,000. Ostler, 57, earlier pleaded guilty to four counts of second-degree felony securities fraud.
For a $15,000 fee, Ostler promised investors "letters of credit" valued at $2.5 million from a European bank. He told them they could withdraw money from the letter of credit to make loans, invest, buy real estate or pay off debts. None received the letters or their money back. Instead, Ostler used the money for personal expenses including gas, food, utilities and travel.
The widow, who was on a fixed income, borrowed $40,000 on her home equity line to invest with Ostler. Jackie Saunders, who put in $20,000, said she was appalled at Ostler's sentence. "It is really a shame that these white-collar criminals who take millions of dollars of the public's money are only sentenced to community service," she said.McCleve told Ostler if he should slip on restitution payments he could go to jail or prison. At his current rate of $200 a month, it would take Ostler, who has health problems limiting his ability to work, more than 50 years to repay the four investors.