Disbarred Somerset Attorney Sentenced for Fraud and Witness Tampering
BOSTON – A disbarred Somerset attorney was sentenced yesterday in federal court in Boston for a scheme to defraud an acquaintance of $60,000 and for witness tampering based on his efforts to influence the victim’s testimony at trial.
John Silvia, 68, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. to 57 months in prison, two years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution of $310,000 and forfeiture. In February 2016, Silvia was convicted by a federal jury of eight counts of securities fraud. The following year, Silvia was convicted in a second jury trial of two counts of wire fraud, five counts of mail fraud, one count of structuring cash transactions and one count of witness tampering.
In March 2014, Silvia was indicted on fraud charges, and convicted in February 2016 for purporting to sell ownership interests in Advanced Space Monitor (ASM), when, in reality, he did not have the right to do so. Silvia created and used a fake “Subscription Agreement” that purportedly gave him the right to receive and sell shares in ASM. He also cut and pasted the signature of ASM’s founder on the document claiming 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 the victims were Silvia’s friends and family members.
One victim was a nurse caring for his wife, whom Silvia convinced to invest $60,000 in a real estate venture and an alleged “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 his first 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 in Silvia’s 2017 trial concluded, Silvia intentionally “structured” the cash deposits in this way to avoid mandatory bank reporting requirements and detection. Furthermore, 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.
Silvia, who was licensed to practice law in Massachusetts in 1975, has been disbarred since 2003.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling 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 referred the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and cooperated with the criminal investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Gallagher of Lelling’s Economic Crimes Unit.