FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – A federal court judge in Broward County sentenced Miami accountant Juan Carlos Rodriguez to 7 years in prison on Friday for running a Ponzi scheme that bilked nearly $2 million dollars from dozens of victims.
Two of the victims were Jorge and Maria Gough. The Gough’s son, Jaime, was murdered in 2004 at Southwood Middle School. The couple received a settlement of $1.7 million dollars and invested $100,000 with Rodriguez.
The Gough’s say Rodriguez stole more than half of it.
“He knew all that we went through,” Jorge Gough told CBS4’s Carey Codd. “This money we gained from the death of our son. And he would look right in my eyes and say, ‘This is a good investment’ and he took my money.”
Rodriguez plead guilty to wire fraud and uttered only a “no comment” when asked by CBS 4 News if he had anything to say to the Gough’s or his other victims.
Inside the courtroom, Rodriguez listened as more than half a dozen of his victims told the judge of their interaction with Rodriguez.
Rodriguez addressed the court and took responsibility for what he did.
“I was responsible for destroying the lives of the innocent victims,” Rodriguez told the judge. “I ran into problems in 2008 and 2009 and I should have stopped. My pride and ambition didn’t let me quit.”
But prosecutor Robert Luck said it wasn’t pride that fueled Rodriguez. Luck said it was greed.
Luck said Rodriguez used his victims money to pay for cars, house payments, credit card bills, groceries and private school for his kids.
Judge William Dimitrouleas said he did not think that Rodriguez “started out as a Ponzi schemer” however the judge ruled Rodriguez deserved a sentence greater than the sentencing guidelines, sending Rodriguez to prison for 7 years.
Rodriguez was also ordered to pay more than one million dollars in restitution.
Rodriguez’s attorney, Lane Abraham, suggested that Rodriguez could continue making small restitution payments to his victims if he was allowed to remain out of prison and work.
However, prosecutor Luck said the victims will likely only receive pennies on the dollar for the amounts they lost.
“It is comical to suggest that these people will be made whole,” Luck said.
Victim Shari Carlquist said she lost $15,000 to Rodriguez.
“I think it’s time that we say this is not ok,” Carlquist said. “You lie, you cheat, you steal, you’re going to jail. There’s consequences for that. It’s not acceptable.
The Gough’s feel hurt as well. They say they knew Rodriguez for 15 years and will once again lean on each other in a time of pain.
“Even though we lost money but we lost a friend too,” Maria Gough said.
Jorge Gough said he and his wife will overcome this together.
“We cried together and said how could someone without a heart do something like this to us,” Jorge Gough said.