Tarpon Springs man gets four-year term in investment scheme

LARGO — Shortly after being sentenced to prison for his involvement in what prosecutors called a sophisticated investment scheme, a somber William Anthony Folino was handing over his personal belongings to a bailiff when his teary-eyed daughter offered some encouraging words.

"I will be there every day to see you," Courtney Folino told him.

What remains to be seen is how many days Folino, 54, of Tarpon Springs will actually spend behind bars.

Judge Joseph A. Bulone sentenced Folino, who pleaded no contest in April to racketeering , to four years in jail and 26 years' probation, and ordered him to pay restitution to the 52 investors in Florida he swindled.

But Bulone said the sentence may be modified if, after 30 days, Folino (who could have received up to 30 years) has made an effort to raise additional funds toward restitution. On Tuesday, Folino turned over $100,000 for that very thing.

Bulone will determine Folino's fate July 2.

Folino, a Health Care marketer who earns $12,000 a month, hoped to avoid jail and earlier told the court he was committed to paying back each of the investors.

"I'm sincerely remorseful," Folino said.

During Tuesday's proceeding, Glenn Martin, attorney for the state, argued that Folino and George J. Belanger of Largo, who died in 2007, solicited investors to their Investment Freedom Club and promised lofty profits through foreign currency trading. But much of the victims' money wasn't invested, and instead went to Folino, the state said.

"This was a typical Ponzi scheme," Martin said.

Sharon Feola, special agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, testified Folino made cash withdrawals, purchased an expensive boat, a 2002 Lexus convertible and even a golf cart from the IFC account.

"This case cries out for prison," Martin said.

John Trevena, Folino's attorney, countered that his client was not a criminal mastermind. The investment club was a hobby, and even Folino had been a victim because he too had lost money through IFC investments. He further argued that Folino had in good faith already paid back several thousand dollars.

"There's no credibility to the argument that Mr. Folino attempted to pull the wool out from under his victims," Trevena said.

The criminal case followed a civil suit in which Folino and Belanger were ordered to pay millions in restitution. It was not known how much of that sum remained.

Following Tuesday's $100,000 payment, Folino still owes $367,000 in restitution relating to the criminal case, Trevena said.

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

Tarpon Springs man gets four-year term in investment scheme 06/02/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 2, 2009 7:12pm]

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