In the spring of 2008, I represented an older couple who had placed $500,000 with Brett Amendola, a high-flying investment broker in Leesburg, with the intention of seeing it invested in a new business. For months afterwards, Amendola avoided their inquiries. Finally, they hired me.
We took discovery and found that the money had been put in Amendola’s personal bank account and used to pay personal debts, including gambling losses. The money was effectively spent off in a few days.
We filed suit for fraud and took Amendola to trial. In May 2009, a Fairfax County jury found Amendola liable for fraud and assessed damages in the amount of $700,000. Unfortunately, it was impossible to trace the money which was now gone — and Amendola claimed he was unemployed and had no income or assets.
We ended up collecting a few small bank accounts, a watch and some of Amendola’s European suits (I still have a couple in my closet, although they were not evidently tailored for someone with upper body muscles). Over 95% of the judgment remained uncollected.
In light of the fact that Amendola had stolen the money, I took the trial transcript and all my exhibits and delivered them to the County Police. I also contacted the Commonwealth Attorney’s office. My clients were more than willing to testify in a criminal setting against someone who had intentionally ruined their life.
There was no response. So Brett Amendola stayed free. In fact, he even sued me and my law firm in 2009 for “interfering” in his business. (That case was dismissed).
On April 4th, Brett Amendola plead guilty to committing Federal wire fraud. The facts are complicated, but basically they outline a two year effort by Amendola to “raise money” for purchasing a golf course. Of course, the entire operation was a sham. Amendola actually posed as an “escrow attorney” who would hold investor funds safely. Instead, he took the funds personally and spent them.
All told, nine “investors” were defrauded. Over $2.8 million was lost. All these losses occurred in 2010-2011, a year after we obtained our verdict.
This was preventable. But I’m not here to specifically blame anyone in law enforcement. Instead, I blame a criminal system in which (seemingly) all our resources are devoted to petty theft and DUI’s. And that problem is getting worse, with the new mandatory penalties which will simply cause all defendants to now try their cases.
Financial crimes are still crimes, even if they’re committed by a white boy with a college degree. (Yes, I said it).
We need to spend less time worrying about a $200 tee shirt being stolen from a department store, and more time worrying about $500,000 being swindled from an elderly couple who can never get the money back.