Scott Levenberg, 36, who received the longer sentence, was ordered to pay $340,000 in restitution and was taken to prison immediately. Bradley Wright, 48, was allowed to remain free on bond until Oct. 12 when he is required to report to prison. He was ordered to repay $92,000.
Both pleaded guilty last month to charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering and identity theft. Levenberg also pleaded guilty to a charge of being a felon in possession of a handgun.
Wright has cooperated fully with prosecutors to identify others involved in what is a large shadowy operation, said his attorney Michael Walsh.
Wright was at the lowest rungs of the scheme, recruiting people who were in recovery to open bank accounts where unsuspecting victims were instructed to deposit money after they were threatened with arrest if they didn’t pay bogus back taxes or other phony governmental fees.
“He’s terribly sorry for what he did,” Walsh said of Wright. He wants his punishment to serve as a warning to other scammers. “If you get caught, you’re going to jail,” he said, quoting Wright.
Wright never thought about the pain he caused others until he was shown a letter written by an elderly Rhode Island woman who was a victim of the scheme.
In the letter to U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks, she told of the panic she experienced when she was told that her Social Security checks were going to be stopped because she was under investigation for money laundering and drug trafficking. Initially dubious about the phone call, she said she was convinced the investigator was authentic when he sent her a photo of his badge and a gun on top of a desk.
Fearful of arrest, she followed his orders to transfer $65,000 to various accounts. She was told the accounts were secure and her money would be returned to her once the investigation was complete.
Later, when she went to the Social Security office, she learned she had been duped. The agency said it never calls recipients on the phone. “This ordeal has caused me tremendous emotional and psychological trauma,” she wrote. “It has affected every aspect of my life.
Walsh said Wright was shocked by the letter. “He said, ‘I never realized what we did,’” Walsh said.