Developer Gets 24-Year Sentence in $80 Million Fraud Case
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ A California developer accused of bilking $80 million from investors was sentenced Friday to 24 years in prison.
Gary Lefkowitz made a 2 1/2-hour speech asking for leniency before U.S. District Judge David Doty, saying he was targeted because of his high living.
``I was tried on the fact that I made big money, lived large and flew around in a jet,″ said Lefkowitz, 42, of Beverly Hills.
U.S. Attorney David Lillehaug believes it was the longest white-collar crime sentence in the 10-year history of federal sentencing guidelines.
A federal jury convicted Lefkowitz July 21 of mail and wire fraud, filing false returns and running a continuing financial crimes enterprise.
He was accused of recruiting investors for low-income housing projects that he didn’t own, were never built or were left unfinished. Prosecutors said he swindled builders, the IRS and about 7,000 investors nationwide through his company, Citi Equity Group Inc. of Culver City, Calif.
Lefkowitz allegedly used his spoils to live in style, spending $2 million on clothes, jewelry and art and $2.2 million on homes in Beverly Hills and Beaver Creek, Colo.
Prosecutors said many investors thought they were buying legitimate tax shelters only to learn they faced a total of $20 million in back taxes and penalties.