An Ashburn man was sentenced today in federal court to seven years in prison for carrying out a $5 million Ponzi scheme involving his alleged purchase of a golf course in Loudoun County.
The scheme of Brett A. Amendola, 38, resulted in losses of at least $2.8 million to more than a dozen victims who had invested with him.
Amendola was immediately taken into the custody of the U.S. Marshal's Service at sentencing, where he will remain until transferred to the Bureau of Prisons to serve his prison sentence.
Amendola pleaded guilty on April 4 to wire fraud.
According to court records, during 2010 and 2011, Amendola persuaded various investors to provide him with short-term funding that would be held in escrow to fulfill a requirement by his lender to purchase the Beacon Hill Golf Course in Loudoun County. He promised the money would be returned to the investors – with interest – in a matter of days.
Instead, authorities said Amendola diverted the investors’ money to his own use, including funding his and family members’ trading accounts, making payments to investors in this and other schemes and paying for personal expenses, including gambling.
To carry out his fraud, Amendola posed as the attorney representing the escrow account both over the phone and through various email messages, leading investors to believe they were wiring funds to financial accounts controlled by the escrow attorney. In reality the financial accounts were controlled by Amendola and quickly looted for his personal use.
In sentencing Amendola, the court found that the fraud was sophisticated and that he abused a position of trust when he impersonated the lawyer.
In a related case, Jerry J. Mckerac, 61, of Las Vegas, Nev., and Fond du Lac, of Wisconsin was charged Thursday in an indictment with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identify theft for his involvement in the scheme, which the indictment alleges included similarly impersonating the escrow attorney as well as Amendola’s father while dealing with the victims.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys James P. Gillis and G. Zachary Terwilliger are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.