Sham Marriage Arranged in Scheme to Defraud Elderly Man
NORFOLK, Va. – A Virginia Beach man pleaded guilty today to exploiting an elderly man’s diminished mental capacity to defraud him of nearly $157,000.
“The financial and emotional harm these scams cause elderly victims and their family members can be devastating,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “This office will continue to aggressively prosecute crimes involving elder fraud, and we remain committed to working closely with our local and state partners to ensure that those who choose to engage in fraud activity are held accountable and brought to justice.”
According to court documents, John Michael Gatchell, 55, facilitated a marriage between the elderly man and a woman with whom Gatchell had a long-term relationship in order to gain access to the elderly man’s money and property. Gatchell induced the elderly man to make a down payment on a Jaguar that Gatchell and a family member drove for about 10 months before it was repossessed by the lender when the loan went into default.
Gatchell also induced the elderly man to obtain two mortgage loans and then diverted most of the proceeds to the benefit of himself and others. He subsequently induced the elderly man to sell the property that secured the loans and again diverted most of the proceeds to himself and others. Gatchell used these monies that he fraudulently diverted to himself to purchase concert series tickets, pay delinquent bills, and make a security deposit and advance rent payments for a house he leased, among other things.
Gatchell pleaded guilty to mail fraud and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison when sentenced on September 6. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Martin Culbreth, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office, and Peter R. Rendina, Inspector in Charge of the Washington Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, made the announcement after U.S. Magistrate Judge Lawrence R. Leonard accepted the plea. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan M. Salsbury is prosecuting the case.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:19-cr-49.