Three men who called themselves the "3 Hebrew Boys" and were convicted of fleecing thousands of people out of more than $80 million were sentenced Tuesday to decades in federal prison.
U.S. District Judge Margaret Seymour on Tuesday sentenced Joseph Brunson and Timothy McQueen to 27 years in prison and Tony Pough to 30 years. They also were ordered to repay $82 million in restitution.
The men were convicted in 2009 on nearly 60 charges each. The men told clients they could make amazing returns in currency markets but actually invested less than $1 out of every $10,000 they were given. Prosecutors say they used the cash for cars and houses.
The three remained defiant Tuesday, telling the judge they didn't think they did anything wrong and were only trying to help people.
The "3 Hebrew Boys" took their name from a Biblical tale about two believers in God who survived being tossed into a fiery furnace because of their faith. In their pitch, they told investors they had been through the flames of crushing debt and survived, thanks to their secret investments and the power of God.
The men traveled to churches and other gatherings across the Southeast, preaching how faith and an investment in what they said were foreign currencies wold at least double their money, wiping out credit card debt and paying off mortgages in months, prosecutors said.
But authorities said less than $1 out of every $10,000 invested went into the foreign currency markets. A very small percentage of the money did go to other investments like a limo service or small businesses, but most of it went for a fleet of expensive cars, homes, luxury boxes at pro football games and other high-end items.
Attorneys for the men asked the judge to reduce their possible sentences because the exact extent of how much money is missing is not known. A court-appointed receiver is still trying to recover assets, and has unearthed about $20 million so far from bank accounts and selling items. At least 4,000 investors have filed claims to get their money back, according to testimony Tuesday.
The sentences for the men were so harsh in part because the judge found they tried to obstruct justice at every turn, hiding cars and other assets from authorities and filing rambling, quizzical motions that called prosecutors "civilly dead." The motions also called their convictions "an act of war" and called Seymour "that woman."