Earlier this week, mainstream Southern California news outlets reported that on Dec. 8 a federal judge sentenced a Newport Beach con man and international fugitive to 10 years in prison based on a 1990s telemarketing scam that targeted victim's retirement funds.
James Eberhart, 73 and a classical music lover who dropped out of the 12th grade, had sought a punishment of only three years because of his age and the possibility that he may die in prison with a longer sentence for stealing more than $12 million in an Internet programming conspiracy called YES Entertainment Network, Inc..
His defense lawyer said it wouldn't be fair for Eberhart to leave prison "in a pine box."
But the mainstream papers missed a key reason why U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney, the most unpredictable sentencing judge inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana, didn't grant Eberhart's wish.
It wasn't just that while a fugitive Eberhart lived well off money stolen from 811 individuals, traveled extensively around the world and made home the Infinity, a custom-built, luxury 58-foot yacht.
After he was arrested at a yacht club in Malaysia in 2012 and returned to the Santa Ana Jail section run by the U.S. Marshal, he told his daughter in a secretly recorded conversation, "[If] they want to lock me up for a few years, I'd do it again . . . I mean, that last 12 years have been just absolutely incredible, you know. And I just done everything that I ever wanted to do, and [had] really a good time at it, too!"
"I'd do it again," lines rarely sit well with federal judges who want punishments to serve as deterrents to others contemplating such conduct.
According to authorities, Eberhart's travels included Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Philippines, Singapore, French Micronesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Mexico, Costa Rica and Africa.
He also openly participated in public sailing races.
Photographs taken of Eberhart show him partying on his yacht with teenager girls from the Philippines, according to law enforcement records.
While he pleaded guilty and saved taxpayers the expense of a trial, Eberhart was only sorry that he got caught, prosecutors believe.
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The defendant's thievery wasn't a late-in-life development. In 1981, he was convicted of kidnapping a business associate's wife for ransom and served four years in custody. In 2000, while on the run, U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter agreed with the Securities and Exchange Commission that Eberhart participated in a separate investor scam.
From the beauty of Southeast Asia to concrete walls, crappy dim light, institutional paint, deranged neighbors and slop for food, home for him is now the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles.