Someone who steals $1.5 million has to go to prison, U.S. District Judge Brian Miller told a former One Bank & Trust customer on Friday.
Miller sentenced Alberto Solaroli, a Canadian citizen doing business in Florida who pleaded guilty to laundering proceeds of a loan the Little Rock bank made in 2007, to one year and one day in federal prison to be followed by two years of supervised release.
The extra day of the sentence means Solaroli, 61, will be eligible for "good time" early release and will probably serve eight or nine months, defense attorney Omar Greene said after the hearing concluded late Friday afternoon. Solaroli will report to prison by April 26.
The hearing was a continuation of one started in January, but Miller had agreed to give Solaroli time to come up with the $120,000 restitution required under the plea deal he struck with federal prosecutors. Greene read an email from Solaroli's Canadian attorney saying mortgages on property in his wife's name had been executed on Friday and that the money would be wired to Greene's trust account on Monday.
Even if the restitution had been paid to One Bank before Friday's hearing, Miller said his "judgment gut" wouldn't let him agree to Greene's request for a probation-only sentence.
"I think when you steal $1.5 million, you deserve prison," Miller said. "…I put postal workers in prison for stealing gift cards. How can I look those people in the eye if I let a guy steal $1.5 million and not go to prison?"
Thanks to the plea agreement that held him responsible for only $120,000, the sentencing guideline range was 12 to 18 months, which Miller clearly thought lenient.
"To be very honest with you, Mr. Solaroli, if you were a younger person I'd be looking at going above the guideline," Miller said.
Patrick Harris, the first assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted Solaroli, said after the hearing that the loan from One Bank was spent on, among other things, a couple of Porsches (almost $1 million, according to the indictment) and repaying a debt ($380,000) to Little Rock businessman David Crews, with whom Solaroli was in business in Florida.
Solaroli, while taking personal responsibility during the hearing, blamed Crews afterward.
"David Crews was the instigator of this," he said.
Phone numbers for Crews were either disconnected or were not accepting voicemail messages Friday afternoon, so he could not be reached for comment.
Crews has not been charged with any crime, but three former One Bank executives remain under indictment for their alleged roles in hiding Solaroli's default from federal regulators.
Gary Rickenbach, who allegedly invested in Solaroli's company before arranging the loan, has offered to plead guilty to misprision of a felony for failing to tell federal regulators that former One Bank CEO Layton "Scooter" Stuart had cooked the bank's call reports, but only if U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker will agree to probation-only sentence. Baker has not announced whether she will accept the plea.
Michael Heald and Brad Paul are currently scheduled for trial beginning May 31.