A Florida man whose loan scam ensnared at least one Western Pennsylvania investor and dozens of others across four continents was sentenced today to five years in federal prison.
Fotios Geivelis Jr., who was 34 at the time of his indictment for wire fraud in December, convinced dozens of people to pay him a total of $3.9 million in fees, pledging to get them eight-figure loans from international banks.
Instead of securing loans, he squandered around $2 million of the fee money in casinos and strip clubs, and on a gram-a-day cocaine habit, according to testimony at his sentencing hearing.
"I realize I made a big mistake and I went down the wrong path," Geivelis told U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer. He got into "certain bad habits and kind of followed the wrong people. ... Money took over and greed took over, and that's why I sit here before you."
From April 2012 through September 2013, Geivelis used Internet marketing to convince investors in Pittsburgh, Florida, Germany, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia to pay him $60,000 to $90,000 each, for which he pledged to find them loans in the $10 million range.
He portrayed himself as Worldwide Funding III Ltd., "which solicited Internet applications for multi-million dollar loans" for "investors seeking to fund 'humanitarian' or 'job-creating' projects," according to the indictment filed against him on Dec. 3.
He never found the loans, and rarely paid back the fees.
One result: Investors from Perth, Australia, who sought to build a community-based youth education center there, lost the land on which the project was slated to go forward.
Actions by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Secret Service resulted in the seizure of more than $3.8 million from Geivelis' former financial attorney. That will be used to pay all of the victims' losses.
Geivelis' attorney, R. Damien Schorr, argued that he should serve no more than four years and three months in prison, especially in light of medical problems from which he suffers.
Geivelis also had no prior convictions, though he had been charged with fraud in Florida.
Assistant U.S. attorney Leo Dillon, though, said that Geivelis, "although new at the game, is one of the top performers in his chosen field," pulling off "an enormous worldwide fraud where in he extracted almost $4 million."
After his release from prison, Geivelis faces three years of probation.
Rich Lord: email@example.com or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord.