A judge in Montgomery County on Friday imposed what will effectively be a seven-year prison sentence on a man convicted of defrauding 11 different people.
On the average, prosecutors say, the scam got about $5,000 from each victim. Some victims lost their homes because of the fraud, say prosecutors. Others lost their businesses.
Two men were involved in the deals: Carlos Sanchez and Franco Villatoro. Both men are Latino and prosecutors say both preyed on the large Latino community that lives in the area.
John McCarthy, the Montgomery County State's Attorney, told reporters: "I think, by its design, [the plan] targeted these [Hispanic] individuals with the thought that the people [Sanchez] was targeting would never report their crimes or bring to the attention of the authorities the fact that they had been bilked and scammed of their monies."
Former radio executive Jose Molina was talked into giving the pair $6,000 in so-called "commitment money" for the pair to arrange a large business loan. Speaking specifically of Sanchez, Molina said, "He promised me he was going to lend me -- he was going to get me a loan -- of $1 million to purchase a radio station -- a transmitter."
The loan never came through. After an investigation was begun, Franco Villatoro began cooperating with authorities. He pleaded guilty, served a short sentence and is being deported to his native country, El Salvador.
Sanchez' defense attorney ridiculed the supposed scheme, pointing out his client's name never appeared on loan documents, on which, by the way, the word "financial" is misspelled.
Some business meetings for the loans were conducted in a laundromat in Gaithersburg.
Friends of Sanchez think prosecutors were too quick to believe the co-conspirator. Ryan Vasconcellos told reporters outside the courthouse, "They got the wrong guy, and they knew it from day one because the guy who did it is not in this country."
But four different victims identified Carlos Sanchez during the course of the trial as one of the two men who took large sums of money from them, and delivered nothing. Prosecutors say two of the victims lost their homes because of the swindle.
Circuit Judge Ronald Rubin said the jury did not err in this case, and the judge gave Carlos Sanchez a seven-year prison sentence, a fine of $15,000 and ordered Sanchez to pay $48,000 in restitution to the victims.
Prosecutors publicly urged immigrants, when they are swindled, to come forward to authorities.
State's Attorney John McCarthy said flatly, when a person is a victim, his office is not interested in their immigration status.