Most of us say "thanks" without thinking.
Jan. 30--A 38-year-old man who rewarded himself with fancy cars and a $20,000 Rolex was sentenced Tuesday to more than four years in prison for defrauding a Minneapolis radiologist and the son of his colleague out of $7.5 million.
Evan M. Flaxman, of Silverthorne, Colo., was sentenced in federal court in Minneapolis to four years and four months after pleading guilty six months ago to mail fraud.
In his plea agreement, Flaxman admitted that he fleeced Dr. William J. Ford III, a diagnostic radiologist, and Eric Barron, the son of St. Louis Park orthopedic surgeon Stephen E. Barron, and spent their money on Ferraris, a Porsche race car, a Rolex and payment of more than $100,000 in personal income taxes.
Prosecutors underscored that Flaxman also used the money for "significant expenses related to his multimillion-dollar home." His fraud was not born of need, but simply so he could "live like a playboy," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Calhoun-Lopez.
The government pushed for a sentence of five years and three months -- the top end of the advisory sentencing guideline -- to "provide just punishment for crimes motivated by greed and marked by a complete disregard for the traumatic impact of his crimes on his victims."
"He left victims without financial means and in one case, contemplating suicide," Calhoun-Lopez said.
The defense argued for a light sentence, far below the bottom of the advisory sentencing guidelines, noting that Flaxman has accepted responsibility for his crimes, otherwise has no criminal record, holds MBA and law degrees from the University of Florida, deals with a serious back injury suffered when his car exploded soon after graduating from law school, and has other physical and psychological problems.
Court documents described a bizarre investment scheme in which Flaxman claimed to be a multimillionaire commodities trader and a partner in a Swiss hedge fund.
Later, he claimed to have connections with a former KGB agent and Russian mafia member named "Vladimir" and warned that anyone who crossed him would pay with their life.
Flaxman said he initially intended to invest the money that his friends entrusted to him. But when he began sending promissory notes to Ford and Eric Barron, along with statements showing that their money was earning profits, he knew he was committing a crime.
Ford met Flaxman through the Barrons during a trip to Colorado and sent him $6,959,000 over several years, according to court records. The Barrons have a home near Flaxman's about 70 miles west of Denver in the Rocky Mountains. Flaxman and Eric Barron became close friends.
Eric Barron told the judge that he was devastated by the fact that a trusted friend would use the proceeds of his brother's life insurance on a fraud scheme.
U.S. Postal Inspector Mary Agnew wrote in court filings that Flaxman told Ford that he reminded him of his late father. Flaxman said his father had been cheated on his investments and offered to manage Ford's money so that nothing similar would happen to him.
U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz called Flaxman's fraud a serious crime. "Mr. Flaxman was living a comfortable, pampered life" when he decided to turn to defraud his friends, he noted. "I believe fraud in particular and white collar crime in general is under-punished."
Schiltz ordered Flaxman to spend three years on supervised release when his prison term ends. He also ordered restitution of $6,959,000 to Ford and $520,000 to Barron.
Flaxman has forfeited substantial amounts of cash, a 2009 Mercedes-Benz, a 2010 Range Rover, a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car and his Rolex. About $1.3 million remains to be repaid.
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