68-Year-Old Coachella Valley Conman Described by Judge as ‘Exceptional’ Criminal Sentenced to 10 Years in Federal Prison

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A career criminal based in La Quinta who posed as an FBI special agent and wealthy real estate investor to defraud his victims of nearly $2 million was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison this week, prosecutors said.

Jerome Arthur Whittington, 68, was sentenced Monday after previously pleading guilty to 33 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud and passport fraud in May 2016, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a news release.

In handing down the sentence, Judge Jesus G. Bernal said “Whittington’s criminal conduct was exceptional — the sheer volume and breadth of his fraudulent conduct is unlike anything I’ve seen from the bench.”

After serving his time behind bars, Whittington will be placed on supervised release for seven years. The defendant was also ordered to pay nearly $1.7 million in restitution to his victims, officials said.

Whittington was accused of masterminding a series of schemes in which he masqueraded as influential figures in criminal justice and real estate to scam his victims.

One victim told Judge Bernal that he gave Whittington the retirement money he’d saved up over a 40-year career, and the defendant “ruined” his life.

In that plot, Whittington had told the man he was an attorney and he could help recover money he lost after investing in two bogus firms — if he first gave Whittington cash for “post bonds” needed to seize the assets. The victim ended up giving Whittington about $290,000, but the defendant put the money toward personal expenses and making payments to victims in other cons, prosecutors said.

According to Judge Bernal, Whittington had been swindling people out of their money since 1971.

“Most people recidivate less when they become older,” he said in imposing the sentence. “But Whittington started the (latest) schemes while he was in the 60s.”

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