A Levittown man was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in federal prison for cheating mostly elderly customers in all 50 states out of more than $9 million as part of a coin fraud scheme, according to officials.
Michael Romano, 47, was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and money laundering in connection with a telemarketing scheme he operated for 11 years out of three Long Island companies, officials said. Romano's salesmen used high-pressure tactics to defraud the 1,450 victims by selling them supposedly rare coins at vastly inflated values, officials said.
U.S. District Judge Sterling Johnson in Brooklyn also ordered Romano to repay victims more than $9 million and to forfeit $32.2 million in gains the scheme made.
Romano's salesmen bullied the victims, "confusing and abusing elderly people," federal prosecutor Lara Treinis Gatz said when Romano was arrested in 2008.
Romano worked the scheme out of several Long Island companies from 1997 to 2008, including Atlantic Coin Galleries and Northeast Gold and Silver, both in Lindenhurst, and Wall Street Rare Coins in Massapequa, officials said.
"Michael Romano and those acting at his direction stole millions of dollars from the Greatest Generation," Eastern District U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
"Romano took advantage of the trusting nature of hundreds of senior citizens across the United States by promising to sell them rare collectible coins, when in fact he was selling them nearly worthless change. Many of the victims purchased the coins in order to leave a legacy for their children and grandchildren."
Gatz and federal prosecutor Christopher Ott, who tried the case, declined to comment after the sentencing. Romano's attorney could not be reached for comment.
Michael Romano is the brother of Joseph Romano, who was convicted in January of a plot to murder prosecutor Gatz and U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bianco.
Michael Romano had nothing to do with that plot, according to officials.
Joseph Romano, 50, also of Levittown, was seeking revenge because Bianco had sentenced him in February 2012 to 15 years in prison for operating a similar coin-fraud scheme in a case prosecuted by Gatz. Judge Bianco originally tried both Romano cases in Central Islip, but the cases were moved to Brooklyn and a federal judge from Manhattan was assigned to hear the murder plot to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.
The brothers had worked together in telemarketing coins, but split in 2001 and operated separate coin frauds, according to sources familiar with their activities.