An identity thief who conned a Long Island firm that disburses class-action settlement funds into paying him nearly $1 million was sentenced to three years in prison Friday during a federal court hearing in Central Islip.
It was the second time that Richard Lagerveld, 57, formerly of California, had used stolen identities and fake documents to convince Garden City Group, based in Lake Success, he was entitled to settlement payouts.
In the first scam, which netted Lagerveld a total of $9.2 million in the early 2000s, he had the checks, one for $6.5 million, sent to him at a homeless center in San Diego near his residence. The scam also involved Jericho-based David Berdon & Co., who Lagerveld also duped into believing he was owed money.
Lagerveld pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud in the latest scheme, committed in 2009, after he escaped from federal detention in California, where he was serving a 10-year sentence for the first scam.
He was captured in 2011 in Sacramento and brought to New York and charged a second time.
“I want to apologize for walking away from the prison camp,” Lagerveld told U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Spatt Friday before sentencing.
Lagerveld pleaded with the judge for leniency so he could make amends with his elderly mother, who lives in New Jersey.
“I’d like to make things right before I lose her,” said Lagerveld, who graduated law school and passed the California bar exam but did not practice law.
Spatt, who sentenced Lagerveld in the first scam, then imposed the latest prison term Friday and also ordered him to complete three years of supervised release. Lagerveld had faced 51 to 63 months in prison.
The second scam followed a class-action lawsuit in 2006 against Virginia-based Mills Corporation that alleged the publicly traded real estate investment trust had exaggerated its financial results, which artificially inflated its stock prices, according to the indictment.
The lawsuit was partially settled in 2009. Mills, which owned and operated large shopping malls, agreed to pay anyone who bought stocks in the company from Feb. 27, 2001, to Aug. 10, 2006. Mills hired Garden City Group to pay out the settlement funds, according to an indictment.
After the settlement, Lagerveld mailed a written claimant form to Garden City Group using the name “Harold Walker,” the indictment said. He used forged documents and phony brokerage statements to persuade the firm that he owned shares in Mills and was entitled to part of the settlement money.
In the first scam, Lagerveld collected a total of $9.2 million. In the second, Lagerveld duped Garden City Group into paying him $850,000 but he was arrested in Sacramento before receiving the money, said his attorney, Anthony LaPinta of Hauppauge.
At the time, Lagerveld was collecting millions of dollars from his first scheme, officials said, while living in a shabby San Diego apartment. Authorities recovered most of the $9.2 million.
“While Mr. Lagerveld’s financial crimes are serious and sophisticated, he is a harmless soul in desperate need of mental health counseling and support,” LaPinta said after sentencing. “With proper treatment, I am confident he could be a law abiding and productive member of society.”
Before handing down his sentence Friday, Spatt noted that Lagerveld suffers from depression, alcohol abuse, and has been estranged from his family.
“This is a sad situation,” the judge said. “The defendant had spent a lonely life in rented rooms.”