A 10-year federal prison term was handed down for a La Quinta man who posed as an attorney, FBI agent and real estate investor to defraud victims out of nearly $2 million across a nearly 50-year criminal career, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.
Jerome Arthur Whittington, 68, was also ordered to pay nearly $1.7 million in restitution to his victims, prosecutors said.
Whittington, who was sentenced late Monday at the Riverside federal courthouse in connection with guilty pleas he entered two years ago to 33 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud and passport fraud, will be on supervised release for seven years after completing his prison term.
U.S. District Judge Jesus G. Bernal said ” Whittington’s criminal conduct was exceptional — the sheer volume and breadth of his fraudulent conduct is unlike anything I’ve seen from the bench.”
Prosecutors detailed one fraud scheme in which he posed as an attorney and purported to assist a victim in recovering losses suffered from investments made in two fraudulent companies. Whittington told the client that in order to seize assets from the companies, he needed to pony up $290,000 to “post bonds” to receive the assets.
After telling the victim that he’d received a $4 million judgment from the companies, Whittington instructed him to leave the country in order to avoid harassment from the companies’ representatives, an ordeal that the victim testified “ruined” his life and depleted 40 years of retirement savings.
Prosecutors said Whittington used the victim’s money for personal expenses, as well as paying off victims of his other fraud schemes.
“Whittington’s criminal history of defrauding people spanned from 1971 — 47 years,” Bernal said at Monday’s sentencing hearing. “Most people recidivate less when they become older. But Whittington started the (latest) schemes while he was in (his) 60s.”