The unusual business career of Pasco resident Dennis Dale Cole ended Thursday when a federal judge sentenced him to 20 months in prison for his part in a $1.5 million investment scheme.
Cole, 60, a Trinity resident and former attorney with offices in Clearwater, pleaded guilty in 2006 to a single charge of conspiracy to defraud for helping swindle at least 17 victims, many of whom are in Missouri, where Cole was sentenced.
Cole was accused of promising illusionary $1 million returns on an initial investment of $50,000.
Cole faced up to 20 years in prison on the charge. But his Largo attorney, John Trevena, successfully argued for a departure from sentencing guidelines because of Cole's cooperation in several other criminal cases.
He must surrender by July 9 to begin serving his term, which will be followed by three years of supervised release.
Cole's biography is as interesting as it is mysterious.
He is the former law partner of FBI deputy director John Pistole and once had a business associate who was a con artist impersonating an NFL player.
In 1988, Cole purchased a century-old chain of small hardware stores in Kentucky and was bankrupt in a year.
And Cole was a business associate of Canadian minister Brian Anderson, who was arrested in Spain two years ago and charged with a separate $14 million scheme to defraud investors. Anderson had pleaded guilty to a fraud charge and awaits sentencing in New York.
The oddity about Anderson is that he was a business associate of Abdul Tawala ibn ali Alishtari, nicknamed "the Sheik," who is charged in Manhattan with trying to finance a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan.
Cole is not linked to Alishtari. But Cole has cooperated in the fraud case against Anderson, prosecutors say. Prosecutors declined to provide details Thursday because they said the information is classified.
Cole, who attended Yale University and is the son of ministers, has never been licensed to practice law in Florida.
That didn't stop him from claiming millions in legal fees he said he was owed by the "Ukrainian Orthodox Church — Kyiv Patriarchate" in a 2003 Pinellas lawsuit Cole filed.
Cole claimed he worked a deal to deposit $500 million in church donations in a bank, though the church later disavowed any such deal and got a Pinellas judge to throw out a faulty judgment Cole had obtained.