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Mission Viejo Teen to Pay $20,000, Serve Time in 2 Fraud Plots

June 15, 2004|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

A Mission Viejo teenager who gained notoriety two years ago as one of the nation's youngest Internet con artists was sentenced Monday to 33 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution in separate bank and Internet fraud schemes.

Cole Bartiromo, 19, who pleaded guilty in March in a plot to defraud a Wells Fargo branch in Mission Viejo of $400,000, sobbed while addressing the court to express remorse, said U.S. attorney's spokesman Thom Mrozek.

Bartiromo was spared a harsher sentence by U.S. District Judge John F. Walter after he recanted his earlier claims that the government had framed him, and after his father, John Bartiromo, asked for leniency for his son.

The senior Bartiromo said his son's schemes were an attempt to help with family finances because of his parents' bankruptcy and Bartiromo's legal costs.

According to the indictment, Bartiromo and two co-defendants tried last year to recruit a Wells Fargo employee to let him wire funds from a customer's account to an offshore bank and gamble with the money through a British sports book.

Bartiromo said he would return the money to the account, less his winnings, before the account's owner knew the money was missing, according to the indictment.

In addition, Bartiromo had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for collecting money from EBay bidders for purchase of cellular telephones and tire rims that he never intended to deliver, the plea agreement said.

In 2002, Bartiromo paid $1.2 million in a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission after bilking investors through his "Invest Better 2001" website.

Bartiromo, who is on bail, is scheduled to begin his sentence July 6. Co-defendants Theo Liu, 20, of Mission Viejo and Oscar Godinez, 20, of Lake Forest await sentencing.

Godinez pleaded guilty to bank fraud and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. His sentencing is Monday.

Liu was convicted by a jury on the same two charges. He is scheduled to be sentenced June 28.

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