Smirking, laughing and shaking his head, William Angolia wasn't exactly a picture of remorse as he listened to one victim after another tell a federal judge how he had cost them their homes and savings in a real estate scam.
The bearded defendant had pleaded guilty to money laundering and fraud charges in schemes that prosecutors said had cost 92 families about $365,000. Wearing a black-and-white striped jail uniform, he was at the federal courthouse in Washington for sentencing. A dozen old clients were there, too, telling about broken promises and deals gone bad in the District, Maryland and Virginia.
"Petty crime is one thing," a woman whose credit rating was destroyed told the judge as Angolia cackled. "But ruining people's lives is different."
The more Angolia snickered, the angrier U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan became. The judge erupted when Angolia said he took "great pride" in his business skills. "You haven't shown any genuine remorse!" Sullivan declared.
"How am I supposed to show it?" Angolia shot back. "Turn around and get on my knees?"
Matters degenerated from there, with Sullivan saying he was appalled by Angolia's "flippant" manner. "Shake your head all you want, sir," Sullivan thundered, as the small crowed of victims watched in astonishment. The judge eventually delayed the sentencing hearing, which took place in July, saying he needed more time to study his options.
Yesterday Angolia returned to his courtroom. And it was no laughing matter.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, Angolia had expected to get a maximum of eight years in prison. But that sentence hinged upon his acceptance of responsibility, and Sullivan said he saw no evidence of that. So he gave Angolia a term of nine years and two months--14 extra months for his behavior at the hearing. Angolia also was ordered to make full restitution and to stay out of the real estate business. "I'm convinced he's a thief," Sullivan said.
Angolia, 42, of Crofton, has been convicted at least seven times on charges of theft, fraud, assault and other offenses. He was on parole when he carried out much of the real estate scam, authorities said. He's been jailed without bond since his arrest in February 1998.
He admitted carrying out several schemes between 1993 and 1998. The most damaging one relied upon advertisements in newspapers and on the Internet in which Angolia said, "I BUY HOMES." Angolia promised to take over the mortgages of people who wanted to sell houses and then market the properties for them. While he was seeking buyers, he was to rent the places and keep the income. He even said he would buy their homes himself if he couldn't make a sale. His service charged clients up-front fees ranging from $500 to $11,000.
The pitch was tailored for people who wanted to unload properties in a hurry because of divorce, illness, family emergencies or a sudden need to relocate. Although Angolia took over the properties, he didn't make the mortgage payments as promised, and he failed to pass along the scores of default and foreclosure warning letters appearing in his clients' mailboxes. By the time they learned what took place, the banks were closing in on them.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Henry K. Kopel said 40 people lost titles or deeds to their homes and a dozen of them suffered foreclosures. Several of Angolia's clients went into bankruptcy, Throughout their ordeal, Kopel said, the victims either could not reach Angolia or got promises and excuses.
Angolia told some victims he had to help his ailing mother with emergency health care costs. In fact, Kopel said, Angolia's mother was in good health and told authorities he owed her several thousand dollars, too.
"We were in a situation looking for an out," explained Mark Flounlacker, 30, saying he and his wife needed to relocate and were in a rush to sell a home in Crofton. They lost $1,600. "We went in with blinders on."
"The sad thing is you clearly have a God-given gift," victim Margaret Croghan told Angolia in court yesterday. "You could legitimately sell everything from automobiles to air conditioners and be a wealthy man."