U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner announced that U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr. sentenced Barry Winnett, 49, of Roseville, Calif., to three years and two months in prison and full restitution for wire fraud for his participation in a scheme that defrauded investors of $2.9 million.
According to court documents, between Jan. 1, 2009, and Feb. 19, 2010, Winnett helped co-defendant Royce Newcomb run a real estate Ponzi scheme. Twenty-two investors transferred $2,975,352 to Winnett’s Contour Escrow Services, which was not an escrow service at all. Winnett had no license to perform escrow services. He simply followed Newcomb’s instructions to disburse later investors’ money to earlier investors and create false documents showing that the bogus escrow account actually was holding money. In fact, the account had almost no money because Winnett had disbursed it all as bogus returns on investment.
At sentencing, Judge England asked what the defendant had to say to a victim who had addressed the court. Winnett answered that he was sorry for “what had happened.” Judge England ordered the defendant immediately taken into custody and said that he hoped that the defendant would spend every day of his sentence reflecting on the gravity of what he had done to his victims.
This case is the product of a joint investigation by the U.S. Secret Service and the Placer County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Segal prosecuted the case.