A Texas man who defrauded at least one person with a Maine bank account in a $3.5 million investment scheme and used some of the money to buy a Rolls Royce and a Range Rover has been sentenced to two years and five months in federal prison.
Russell Hearld, 46, of Sugar Land, Texas, pleaded guilty in May to one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. He was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Portland.
In addition to prison time, U.S. District Judge John Woodcock sentenced Hearld to three years of supervised release. The judge will hold a hearing this spring to determine the amount of restitution owed to the victims.
Woodcock ordered Hearld, who remains free on bail, to begin serving his sentence on Feb. 23.
Of the co-conspirators, Hearld received the most from the yearlong scheme in 2017 and 2018 — $2.2 million, according to court documents. His purchases with the money included the two luxury vehicles.
Hearld is one of four people indicted by a federal grand jury in April 2019 in connection with the illegal venture. Two others, Arthur Merson, 67, of Scottsdale, Arizona, and Christopher Ochoa, 35, of Jacksonville, Florida, also were charged. The name of the fourth person, who has not been arrested, has not been made public.
Merson pleaded guilty Monday to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. A sentencing date has not been set.
Ochoa, a lawyer in Florida who received and disbursed the fraudulently obtained funds, has pleaded guilty to the same conspiracy charge. He remains free on bail and is set to be sentenced next month.
Between March 2017 and March 2018, the men persuaded investors that, for a small investment, they could receive a portion of the value of standby letters of credit — a legal document guaranteeing a bank’s commitment of payment — that was allegedly worth millions of dollars.
Investors were promised returns equal to many times the amounts of their initial investments in a matter of weeks, court documents said. They were also promised that their money would remain in Ochoa’s trust account until confirmation was received that a letter of credit had been issued.
“Contrary to these representations, Hearld routinely directed [Ochoa] to withdraw investor funds as soon as they were deposited into the attorney’s trust account,” the U.S. attorney’s office said Monday. “For example, in March 2017, an investor wired $500,000 from his bank account in Maine to the attorney’s trust account in Florida. On the previous day, Hearld had sent the attorney an email, directing the attorney to disburse the investor’s funds.”
The co-conspirators faced up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.