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Orange County Gold Swindler Who Targeted Elderly Learns His Punishment

In 2007, La Habra's slick-talking John Arthur Walthall tricked an elderly Orange County couple into investing $5.5 million for a fictitious gold mining operation and, as scumbags are prone to do, secretly used the money to pay his personal living expenses.

The FBI learned of the con game, arrested Walthall and federal prosecutors won convictions at a four-week, December 2011 trial.

After noting that Walthall used the stolen funds to pay alimony to his ex-wife, film school tuition for a son, reduce his personal debts and buy numerous vehicles as well as a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, Assistant United States Attorney Mark P. Takla and Ivy A. Wang, his colleague, sought a punishment of 235 months of incarceration.

Walthall--who, at one point, fled to Nevada, bought instructions to "go invisible," assumed a fake identity and swindled other people before his capture--argued that he deserves leniency because of some bull crap medical excuse.

Late yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Guilford decided to send Walthall, 56, away to prison for the next 14 years.

The swindler must also pay $2.49 million in restitution.

"Fraud schemes that victimize older residents are nothing short of elder abuse," Los Angeles-based U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said in a prepared statement. "While elder abuse is often committed by family members or caregivers, this case reminds us that the elderly can also be targeted by outside scam artists, whose actions can bring significant financial ruin and emotional harm."

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