(Bloomberg) -- A career con man who impersonated the billionaire founder of an investment fund to get its portfolio companies to pay for a phony investigation of possible Jeffrey Epstein links was sentenced to six years in prison.
Jonathan Ghertler, 61, made more than $1 million by hoodwinking the portfolio companies of two financial firms with the scam. In addition to posing as the founder of the New York investment firm, he pretended to be the general counsel of a private equity shop. Prosecutors haven’t identified either.
They called Ghertler a “career fraudster” who has been convicted 16 times, including four federal wire fraud convictions. He began working on the Epstein scheme from a Florida halfway house where he was completing his sentence for an earlier crime, they said.
“I’m addicted to self-destruction, more than anything else,” Ghertler told US District Judge Edgardo Ramos, who sentenced him Wednesday in Manhattan federal court. “It’s disingenuous for me to stand here and say I’m sorry.”
Drugs and Vacations
Ghertler spent most of the money on drugs, fancy vacations and personal expenses, Assistant US Attorney Adam Sowlati told the judge. Ghertler agreed to forfeit the $1,065,000 he made from the fraud, but not much more than $20,000 was left for the government to recover after his arrest, Sowlati said.
Read More: Fake Epstein Probe Used in Alleged Scam of Investment Firms
Posing as the billionaire investment firm founder, Ghertler contacted the chief executive officer of one of the firm’s portfolio companies in May 2021, saying he needed the company to pay a private investigator examining his relationship with Epstein. The company then made more than $800,000 in payments to a person named “Edward Molina.” The payments were deposited in at least one account linked to Ghertler, prosecutors say.
Ghertler, of Orlando, pleaded guilty in June to one count of wire fraud and one count of making false statements. He tried out the same scam, unsuccessfully, on two other portfolio companies of the firm, according to the government.
Epstein killed himself in 2019 while facing sex trafficking charges.
Ghertler was playing a potent card, as ties to Epstein have proved costly on Wall Street. JPMorgan Chase & Co. on Tuesday agreed to pay $75 million to settle claims by the US Virgin Islands that it ignored his crimes as it provided banking services to him, on top of $290 million it previously agreed to pay to Epstein victims.
Read More: JPMorgan Settles With Staley, USVI to End Epstein Legal Woes
Links to Epstein have led to career downfalls for former Barclays Chief Executive Officer Jes Staley, who headed JPMorgan’s private bank, and Apollo Global Management co-founder Leon Black. Both have denied knowing about or participating in inappropriate conduct with Epstein.
Ghertler admitted to posing as the chairman of a global law firm on calls with prosecutors and agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and trying to get them to shut down their probe. Prosecutors say he tried to convince the FBI that no crime had been committed.
According to the US, he told them the firm had been defrauded but chose not to complain to law enforcement because it had been “made whole” by the fraudster.
In 2001 he was charged in New York with conning six of the largest US law firms into paying about $200,000 by posing as a partner with those firms, and was sentenced to 71 months in prison.
(Adds Ghertler quote in first section, how US says he spent the money in second and Wall Street context in third.)
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