A brazenly obnoxious Newport Coast con man duped innocent small business owners into funding his cushy lifestyle, but is hoping this week a federal judge rejects a request by federal prosecutors to give him a 15-month prison punishment.
In 2011, Daniel Peter Brucato, 55, tricked his victims into sending him nearly $120,000 in exchange for wholesale products such as Rolex watches, shirts and hat, but didn't delivered the items.
In part because Brucato kept the money to rent a luxury home, pay his personal credit card bills and lease a Porsche Cayenne, prosecutors inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse want the thief to go to prison and pay full restitution.
But at his upcoming sentencing hearing, Brucato thinks U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter should issue a far less severe punishment: six months in a residential reentry center where, his defense lawyer notes, officials will "substantially restrict" his "liberty" even if it's not prison.
To support its stance for leniency, the defense claims Brucato suffered several traumatic events decades ago while growing up and, given his age and education level, is highly unlikely to become a recidivist.
The defense is also arguing that prosecutors overstated the brazenness of Brucato's criminal operation by erroneously pushing for a sentencing enhancement because the defendant committed a "mass marketing" fraud using his Yahoo email accounts.
Assistant United States Attorney Vibhav Mittal disagrees, saying the conduct triggered the enhancement.
"Brucato, using Yahoo email accounts, solicited [the victims]," Mittal advised Carter. "[He] represented that he would ship the goods to the victims upon receipt of wire payments. After Brucato received the wire payments from the victims, defendant did not ship the goods [and] falsely represented to the victims that the goods were delayed or lost in transit."
The four, duped victims lost $46,500, $23,850, $43,500 and $6,000, according to Mittal.
Brucato pleaded guilty in January to two of six wire fraud counts contained in a federal indictment and had been free on bail until early September when he was re-arrested for violating the conditions of his release.
He wants the restitution amount reduced to $94,000.
Carter, a tough but fair judge, is scheduled to announce his punishment ruling today.