A Plainview man who scammed dozens of advertising firms and distilleries around the country was sentenced Wednesday to 2 1/2 years in prison.
Gilbert Solnin, 67, pleaded guilty in April to a single count of fraud involving schemes in which he falsely claimed he could help generate business for the companies.
U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack in Central Islip also sentenced Solnin to three years of supervised release and ordered restitution of $196,000.
“Between 2008 and 2012, when the economic climate was bleak and companies struggled to stay in business, defendant Solnin stole money from small advertising agencies and beverage producers,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Allen Bode said in a sentencing memorandum.
Solnin pocketed advance fees ranging from $1,000 to $8,500, and to discuss his bogus proposals, he required that he be flown out in first class and put up in top-notch accommodations, the prosecutor said.
In one scheme, Solnin, who also used the name Gil Solomon, promised advertising agencies that he could land them a marketing campaign for a new vodka, power drink or bottled water, Bode said. In another, Solnin promised small-scale distilleries he could help market their product.
“It was all a lie,” Bode wrote in the memo.
Solnin, who worked more than a decade for the Seagram Beverage Co., used his knowledge of the liquor industry to make his schemes sound more convincing, according to Bode.
“He knew that the advertising and beverage industry relied on handshake deals and trust when doing business,” the prosecutor said.
Solnin stole about $350,000 from about 55 advertising agencies and distilleries, Bode said.
One of the victims, Michael Kaiser, who ran an advertising agency in Los Angeles and gave Solnin $10,000, said by telephone after the sentencing that Solnin’s presentation was “very well-thought out, very detailed ... It never dawned on me” that it was a fraud.
“I have no sympathy for the man,” Kaiser said. “He was a crook, through and through.”
Solnin wrote in a pre-sentencing letter submitted to the court that he began the schemes after an unspecified business he attempted to start on his own failed.
Because of what he had done, Solnin wrote, his marriage crumbled and he lost all his businesses associates and friends.
“Whatever sentence your honor chooses to impose, with all due respect to the court, will be nothing compared to what I have endured … and will endure for the rest of my life,” he wrote.