Melinda Campano rose in the 1980s to become one of the most successful female bankers in her native Philippines and halfway through Ronald Reagan's second term in the White House the businesswoman immigrated to Southern California, where she continued a financial career that earned her as much as $245,000 annually.
But for at least eight years until 2011, Campano secretly used her banking jobs and ethnicity as criminal tools to entice unsuspecting individuals to give her their life savings for secure and profitable investments.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Campano tricked people out of $4 million, provided victims documentation falsifying interest, and diverted the money to her real estate development companies as well as to cushion her own life, including shopping sprees for vintage furniture.
Her crimes called for a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison, but Assistant United States Attorney Joshua M. Robbins and Campano's defense lawyer negotiated a guilty plea that recommended a prison term of 51 months for mail fraud.
Before the sentencing hearing this week inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, however, the thief sent a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Andrew J. Guilford.
"If [my numerous victims] will look at my heart it will sincerely and clearly show I don't [sic] intend to hurt them and that we are all affected by the severe economic breakdown," she wrote.
Her plan, she insists, was she would score big in the house-flipping market and then share that wealth with her victims, but the bad economy prevented her well-intended strategy.
It's not wise to seek leniency while simultaneously avoiding full accountability when appearing before Guilford, a fair judge with zero tolerance for shameless con artists.
He rejected the plea deal recommendation, ordering Campano to serve a 63-month term and pay restitution of nearly $4.1 million--including $25,000 immediately.
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After she emerges back into society, she must also undergo supervised probation for three years.
Campano remains free on bail today, but has until noon on June 20 to self-surrender to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.