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Sentenced in Ponzi scheme, Tarpon Springs man faces new grand theft charge

LARGO — When William Folino was sentenced last month to four years in prison and 26 years' probation for racketeering, Judge Joseph A. Bulone gave the man accused of swindling 52 Florida investors a glimmer of hope.

If funds were raised toward restitution, the sentence could be reduced.

But in the 30 days that followed, the 54-year-old Tarpon Springs resident, while sitting in the Pinellas County Jail, was unable to produce more money. On top of that, the State Attorney's Office hit him with an additional charge of grand theft.

As a result, Folino's attorney, John Trevena, withdrew a motion for sentence reconsideration Thursday at the Pinellas County Criminal Justice Center.

"The fact the new charge was filed made it, as a practical matter, impossible to request reconsideration," Trevena said. "How can you ask the judge for reconsideration when the state has filed a new charge of similar conduct?"

Trevena said he did not know the specifics of the grand theft charge, only that $2,200 was owed to the victim and that it potentially could carry a five-year sentence. He said Folino's family would help pay restitution in that case, which he hoped would help his client's cause. But Trevena is concerned more charges could be coming.

"That seems to be what the state has indicated," he said.

Folino pleaded no contest in April to racketeering.

During sentencing in June, Glenn Martin, attorney for the state, argued Folino and George J. Belanger of Largo, who died in 2007, solicited investors in a "typical Ponzi scheme" to their Investment Freedom Club. They promised lofty profits through foreign currency trading. But much of the victims' money wasn't invested and instead went to Folino, Martin said.

Trevena countered that the investment club was a hobby and that even Folino had lost money through IFC investments. He pointed out that Folino had already paid back several thousand dollars, including $100,000 the day of his sentencing.

When the sentence was handed down, Folino and his family were shocked. A month later, reality appeared to have set in.

"He's handling it the best he can," Folino's daughter, Courtney, said Thursday. "I'm glad he chose to serve the time. We're all ready to move on and get closure in our lives."

After Folino's sentence ends, he will have six months to get back on his feet before he will have to continue paying restitution to the victims.

Keith Niebuhr can be reached at kniebuhr@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4156

Sentenced in Ponzi scheme, Tarpon Springs man faces new grand theft charge 07/02/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 2, 2009 7:29pm]

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