A Baton Rouge man who conned people out of more than $800,000 over a four-year period to fund his gambling habit by telling them he was a hot sauce heir with a $20 million trust fund was sentenced Thursday to more than five years in prison.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson also ordered Johnathan E. Williams, 34, to pay more than $835,000 in restitution and forfeit another $500,000 as illegal proceeds of his fraud scheme.
Jackson, who sentenced Williams to 63 months in prison, immediately remanded him into federal custody after finding he had continued to engage in criminal conduct even after his March guilty plea to wire fraud charges.
“We hope today’s sentence sends a strong message to those who would engage in fraud to line their pockets,” U.S. Attorney Walt Green said in a prepared statement. “This defendant’s long-running scheme caused his victims tremendous hardship, both financial and emotional, threatening the financial security and retirement plans of many along the way.”
Williams would tell his victims he had a trust fund containing millions of dollars and that he would be able to repay his victims as soon as he gained access to the fund, Green said.
Williams falsely told some victims he was an heir to the family that produces Tabasco hot sauce, the chief federal prosecutor for the Baton Rouge area noted.
As part of the scheme, Green said, Williams used a false and fictitious letter — on an attorney’s letterhead — falsely representing that Williams had a trust fund worth “in excess of $20 million.”
Williams defrauded more than 30 victims from 2008 through 2011, he said. One Florida man alone lost about $300,000 to Williams.
Williams admitted in March that he also told people he worked for a flooring company and needed money to place supply orders.