As a follow-up to my prior story about a shocking small town fraud scheme that occurred in Nephi, Utah. Yesterday the confessed perpetrator of that scheme, Tom Andrews, was sentenced to 97 months in prison. This is the maximum sentence Judge Sam could have imposed. Hopefully others who might consider starting up a scheme like this will think twice when they see this significant prison sentence. This story about the sentencing appeared in the Deseret News today:
Judge comes down hard on former Nephi man in affinity fraud case
SALT LAKE CITY — A Sanpete County dairy owner told a federal judge Thursday that he’d be happy to have the man who stole his retirement money do some time on his farm.
Bob Bown said Tom Andrews needs to do some physical labor, get his hands dirty, rake manure out of stalls. “One of the best things that could happen to him is to do some hard work,” Bown said.
The judge, however, sentenced Andrews to 97 months in prison — the maximum under sentencing guidelines — after the former Nephi man admitted to securities fraud and mail fraud. Sam, who rejected an earlier plea deal as too lenient, said he would have ordered a longer prison term if he could. Sam also ordered him to pay $8.3 million in restitution.
Sam then made the rare move for a white-collar case of placing Andrews, 40, in custody on the spot. A couple dozen of the victims applauded as U.S. marshals escorted Andrews from the courtroom in handcuffs.
“It just makes me sad,” Sam said, noting how Andrews wiped out people’s retirement savings. “It’s kind of like taking the widow’s mite.”
Andrews, who ran a Nephi tax return preparation service, admitted to encouraging nearly two dozen people to roll over their retirement accounts into fake companies he created called Jackson Trust and Lincoln Financial Group. He mailed them doctored financial statements from California to make the companies appear legitimate.
Andrews used at least $5.5 million for his living expenses and personal benefit, including luxury cars, homes and vacations. Investigators say all the money is gone. Victims — many of them longtime friends whom Andrews considered family — don’t expect to ever recoup their losses.
“He has lived as a millionaire for years and everybody else is paying for that now,” victim Ben Rosenloff told the judge.
It was also revealed in court Thursday that Andrews failed to remit some of his clients’ federal and state tax payments, landing them in trouble with the IRS.
“I don’t understand him,” Bown said. “I thought I knew him, but I don’t.”
Prosecutor Jacob Strain said this case wasn’t like other investment fraud cases where investors hope to double their money in a get-rich-quick scheme. These were people who knew and trusted Andrews and who thought their money was safe and secure with him, he said.
Andrews read an apology to the victims, saying words can’t describe his regret and that he hopes people forgive him.
“I’ve hurt and destroyed people’s lives and I’m truly sorry for that,” he said. “I scarred them both emotionally and financially for years to come.”
Defense attorney Rebecca Skordas argued for a 70-month sentence because she said Andrews was “incredibly forthcoming when originally confronted about wrongdoing” — a statement that drew scoffs from the packed courtroom.
Andrews cooperated with federal investigators and helped them go through bank documents to determine how much money victims were owed, she said.
Mike Sperry, who said his parents lost their life savings, showed the judge a large poster with photos of Andrews, who moved to California, enjoying himself at Disneyland this fall.
“I don’t think any of the victims have been to Disneyland since this happened,” he said.
Sallie Rawlings, a Draper lawyer who along with her husband lost 30 years of retirement savings, suggested Andrews be required to write an apology letter to the 20 victims listed in the criminal charges and spend a year in prison for each of them, an idea the judge said he liked but he couldn’t do.
“This was a calculated and manipulated fraud perpetrated by a masterful thief,” Rawlings said. “Let’s send a message that this cowardly, cruel, brazen act will not be tolerated.”