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Con Artist Sentenced to 6 Years for Gift Scheme

December 07, 1988|GEORGE RAMOS | Times Staff Writer

A con artist with a long criminal record who was once jailed after bilking a former wife of all her money during their Hawaiian honeymoon has been sentenced to six years in federal prison for his role in a phony gift giveaway scheme that netted him at least $100,000 last year.

U.S. District Judge Ferdinand F. Fernandez imposed the sentence Monday on Mitchell Eisenberg, 41, of Woodland Hills after he pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud. Noting Eisenberg's past convictions, the judge said, "He's been a thief and a fraud all his life."

Sentence Called Significant

Assistant U.S. Atty. David A. Katz said the sentence was significant because it is believed to be longest term ever given a non-supervisorial person in illicit boiler room schemes in California. Authorities have long considered this state a center for such activities.

Eisenberg was named in a federal indictment in July that accused him of being part of a boiler room operation in which customers were told they had won one of five grand prizes, including a car or a Caribbean cruise.

Katz said customers were told, however, that they had to put up $399, and later $563, to purchase "premiums" in order to avoid gift taxes on the prizes, which were never awarded.

Eisenberg was a key salesman in the operation, accounting for a major portion of the boiler room's $10-million gross in 1986 and 1987, Katz said. At one point, Eisenberg admitted to investigators that he made $100,000 off the illicit scheme last year and did not report it to the Internal Revenue Service, the prosecutor added.

Federal court records show that Eisenberg was convicted five times and sentenced for various fraud schemes dating back to 1964.

For example, he served 2 1/2 years for a grand larceny conviction in New York and another year in Tennessee for the illegal interstate transport of a stolen vehicle.

In 1971, records show, he married a woman in Las Vegas and they went on a honeymoon in Hawaii, however, Eisenberg took an undisclosed amount of traveler's checks and credit cards from the woman. Using the credit cards, he spent lavishly, running up a debt of about $10,000, records show, Katz said the woman later declared bankruptcy and filed for an annulment, which was granted in late 1971.

Both trips outside of California were in violation of Eisenberg's parole from a previous conviction and, as a result, Eisenberg was jailed for two years, Katz said.

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