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That's the last scam, judge says

Prosecutors said William Hillman III had spent years committing "one scam after another." Circuit Judge Debra Behnke called Hillman a compulsive liar.

On Friday, after giving Hillman several months to provide proof of the traumatic childhood he claimed, Behnke put an end to the charades.

She sentenced him to 7 years of prison and ordered him to pay upwards of $800,000 during another 7 years of probation.

The huge restitution, which Hillman's attorney plans to fight, is mainly owed to three major computer companies that Hillman admitted he bilked by saying he needed equipment to conduct research about mad cow disease.

It also includes $50,000 the judge wants Hillman to pay in cash to an elderly Temple Terrace woman. Investigators said Hillman, 61, persuaded the woman to give him access to several of her credit cards and then exploited her.

"Every time I turned around, I found another victim," said prosecutor Thomas Palermo. "It doesn't matter where you dig, you find more stuff."

In April, Hillman pleaded guilty to racketeering, grand theft and organized fraud for more than $50,000.

His biggest get, investigators said, came between August 2004 and July 2005. Hillman placed orders for computers and equipment that he said would be covered by federal grant money. He received $317,715 worth of equipment from Dell, $59,433 from Toshiba and $243,616 from Hewlett-Packard.

Hillman then dispersed the equipment to storage sheds in Wesley Chapel and New Jersey and to a man who resold dozens of the laptops from his Iselin, N.J., shop.

Hillman's attorneys argued that he needed inpatient treatment for troubles stemming from a childhood that included sexual abuse and foster care.

Valerie R. McClain, a licensed psychologist, testified this summer that she had evaluated Hillman and determined that he needed help, not prison.

After initial reports of Hillman's claims hit the news, two of his cousins came forward to dispute them. They offered to testify about Hillman's stable family life and middle-class upbringing.

When Hillman learned of that at an August hearing, he asked to withdraw his guilty plea.

Behnke refused to grant his request. She gave his attorney, Michael Connell, time to research the cousins' story.

On Friday, McClain testified that she had interviewed Hillman again. This time, Hillman said he wasn't in foster care but at a boys camp.

Palermo couldn't believe his ears.

"Are you telling me that going to boys camp is the equivalent to foster care?" he said after the hearing.

The judge found that the psychologist's report was not credible because it was based on lies from the college-educated Hillman.

Behnke sentenced Hillman and said she will hold a restitution hearing in the future to determine exactly how much he owes his victims, Palermo said.

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at (813) 226-3337 or cjenkins@sptimes.com.

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