Two local men were recently sentenced, a third pleaded guilty, a fourth pleaded not guilty and a woman was charged in separate, unrelated frauds that stung victims for amounts ranging from the thousands to the millions of dollars, according to authorities.
Your latest neighbors and fraudsters include:
* Edward Sellers Fitzgerald, a Dana Point yacht broker who pleaded guilty Monday to cheating 26 people out of $1.3 million in an investment scheme and was immediately sentenced to seven years in prison as part of a plea deal with an Orange County Superior Court judge. The 62-year-old admitted to eight counts of theft from an elder, 19 counts of using untrue statements in the purchase or sale of a security, 17 counts of grand theft and 14 counts of writing bad checks with the intent to defraud, all felonies. As owner of Dana Island Yacht Sales and Charters from 2007-09, Fitzgerald obtained loans from friends to buy boats for resale but never got the boats and spent the money on himself. He also got new investors to pay off old investors, sold yachts on behalf of clients while embezzling the profits and either failing to pay them back or sending them checks that bounced, and he also kept deposits on yachts without delivering the tubs or returning the funds. Fitzgerald, who has been in custody since May 2013, withdrew all the money in his bank accounts and moved out of state without telling his investors or clients, nor did he provide forwarding information.
* Gino Paul Pietro, a Newport Beach attorney who was facing up to 40 years in federal prison but was sentenced to 30 months in lockup for two fraud schemes. On July 20 at the Reagan courthouse in Santa Ana, the 54-year-old was sentenced to two years behind bars for what prosecutors called "a sophisticated loan fraud scam" that used a straw buyer to conceal a client's receipt of more than $4 million in commercial loans backed by the federal government. That client was Laguna Niguel's Donald Keith Goff, who was sentenced to 6 1/2 years behind bars for a series of schemes to defraud banks and the Small Business Administration out of $4.5 million through a loan he obtained to buy a Fountain Valley gas station. On Friday in San Diego County, Pietro drew another 10 months for defrauding six families out of $3,000 apiece by falsely telling them his investigator was an attorney "who could 'globally' resolve their criminal and immigration cases." Six of the 10 months are to be served consecutively to the two-year sentence. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego called Pietro a "disgrace to the entire legal profession," and the state bar agreed last year when it suspended his law license. He's also been ordered to pay $18,000 in restitution in the San Diego case and still has an Oct. 26 restitution hearing in Santa Ana.
* Neil Godfrey, a Santa Ana payment processor company owner, pleaded guilty to fraud in federal court in Pennsylvania, where the 76-year-old had been accused of the unauthorized withdrawal of millions of dollars from consumers' bank accounts. In pleading guilty, Godfrey admitted that he used his Santa Ana company Check Site Inc. to assist at least two fraudulent merchants who offered pay-day loans. Instead of providing the loans, the merchants used information on consumers' loan applications to withdraw money from their bank accounts, transactions that Godfrey knowingly processed through banks in Irvine and Philadelphia. He also admitted to helping the fraudulent merchants stay off the radar of other banks and regulators.
* Richard Scott Bloustine, a Newport Beach man who has been in and out of prison the last 20 years for frauds in Arizona, Hawaii and Santa Barbara. Add Orange County to the hit list, according to prosecutors, although the 49-year-old pleaded not guilty at arraignment last week for allegedly kiting several checks totaling about $100,000. Senior Deputy District Attorney Marc Labreche alleges Bloustine: racked up an $80,000 bill at a dentist's office in Newport Beach from Nov. 10 to Dec. 13 last year and wrote a bad check for $72,000; kited a check for $32,000 to lease a home in Newport Beach on Nov. 13 and then wrote another $13,000 bad check to furnish the pad; and in December wrote a $15,000 bad check as a down-payment for a Mercedes-Benz at a Laguna Beach dealership. "It would appear he has no legitimate source of income and had hardly any income in his bank account," Labreche told City News Service. But Bloustine could earn pennies an hour in the prison laundry room for up to 14 years if he is convicted of three counts of grand theft, six counts of writing bad checks and one count of unlawful taking of a vehicle, with sentence-enhancement allegations for aggravated white collar crime exceeding $100,000, property damage or loss above $65,000, and for prior felony convictions.
* Polly Sandra John, an Anaheim 49-year-old charged with defrauding over $24,000 in cash and property from an elderly man. John is accused of isolating 76-year-old Lynn Merrell, who suffered from dementia, and convincing him to marry her after her wife passed away. John allegedly got the man to change his bank accounts, give her money and list her as a beneficiary of Merrell's pension, home and his vehicles, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA), which further accuses John of taking the victim's money, cars and forcing the victim to buy her another car. Bank tellers and AAA representatives contacted the Anaheim Police Department after seeing John argue with Merrell in their businesses, and an investigation resulted in her Jan. 10, 2013, arrest. She is charged with five felony counts of theft from an elder, two felony counts of attempted theft from an elder, three felony counts of grand theft auto, one felony count of grand theft, and sentencing enhancements for aggravated white collar crime over $100,000, and property damage loss over $65,000. A conviction could send her to state prison for 11 years, but authorities fear there may be other victims and ask anyone with information to contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Damon Tucker at 714.648.3667.