Disbarred Somerset Attorney Convicted of Fraud and Witness Tampering
BOSTON – A disbarred Somerset attorney was convicted today by a federal jury in connection with his scheme to defraud an acquaintance of $60,000 and of witness tampering based on his efforts to influence the victim’s testimony at trial.
John Silvia, 67, purportedly the “Managing Member” of Richardson Consulting, LLC, was convicted following a five-day trial of two counts of wire fraud, five counts of mail fraud, one count of structuring cash transactions and one count of witness tampering. U.S. District Court Judge George A. O’Toole, Jr. scheduled sentencing for May 23, 2017.
In 2013, Silvia convinced an acquaintance, a nurse caring for his wife, to invest $60,000 in a real estate venture and a purported “performance bond.” In reality, however, Silvia used the money for personal expenses, including to pay for his portion of Red Sox season tickets and an interest in a Marriott timeshare. Long after the money was gone, Silvia lulled his victim into believing that the money had been used as promised and that the investment, along with interest, would be returned.
In the months leading up to trial, when it was clear that Silvia’s victim was preparing to testify against him, Silvia pulled together more than $70,000, which he deposited in small increments—some on the same day—into six different bank accounts. He then prepared a series of checks and attempted to pay back his victim the full $60,000 “plus interest.” As the jury concluded, Silvia intentionally “structured” the cash deposits in this way so as to avoid mandatory bank reporting requirements and detection. As the jury also concluded, Silvia’s belated attempt to repay the victim—years after the initial investment and within a few months of his anticipated testimony—was really an attempt to influence the victim’s testimony.
In February 2016, Silvia was convicted of eight counts of securities fraud arising out of his effort to sell ownership interests in Advanced Space Monitor (ASM) that he was not entitled to sell. In furtherance of his fraud, Silvia created and used a fake “Subscription Agreement” that purportedly gave him the right to receive and sell shares in ASM when, in reality, he did not have the right to do so. Silvia cut and pasted the signature of ASM’s founder on the document purporting to give Silvia ownership interest in the company. Silvia defrauded multiple investors out of more than $300,000 based on false representations about his ability to sell the shares. Many of his victims were his friends and family members.
Silvia, who was licensed to practice law in Massachusetts in 1975, has been disbarred since 2003.
The charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and witness tampering each provide for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross loss to the victims, and restitution. The structuring charge provides for a sentence of no greater than five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss. The charge of securities fraud provides a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $5 million, or twice the gross loss to the victims, and restitution. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting United States Attorney William D. Weinreb and Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division, made the announcement today. The Massachusetts Securities Division, which filed an administrative action charging Silvia with violation of Massachusetts securities laws, referred this case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and cooperated with the criminal investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Gallagher of Weinreb’s Economic Crimes Unit and Eric Forni of the Securities and Exchange Commission who was appointed as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney.