On Wednesday, a federal judge tripled the possible prison term for an Augusta man who passed fraudulent checks and stood accused of cheating an elderly woman out of nearly a quarter-million dollars.
The crime Anthony Mastantuono pleaded guilty to in federal court in March was uttering and possessing forged securities. He admitted he passed more than $11,000 in bogus checks in 2005.
As bad as that was, it represents a fraction of his misdeeds, the judge said.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, the forged securities crime carried a potential sentence of 15 to 20 months.
The probation officer who prepared the pre-sentencing report for U.S. District Senior Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. recommended 60 months.
After Mr. Mastantuono pleaded guilty in the spring, federal officials learned that he might have been responsible for a 95-year-old woman's withdrawal of $230,000 from her bank accounts. Mr. Mastantuono and his son ended up in a new copy of the woman's will.
Mr. Mastantuono's attorney, Victor Hawk, asked the judge not to consider any conduct with the elderly woman. He has not been charged with any new criminal offense, Mr. Hawk said.
Judge Bowen decided that the federal sentencing range in Mr. Mastantuono's case didn't adequately cover the extent of his criminal conduct. To impose a sentence within that range would be perceived "as laughable by the public," he said.
The judge accepted the pre-sentencing officer's recommendation and imposed a 60-month prison sentence, followed by three years' probation. Federal sentences are served without parole.
The judge also ordered $11,000 in restitution.
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