Ponzi schemer pleads guilty to bilking investors of millions, is held in federal custody

  • In US
  • 2022-09-29 09:00:38Z
  • By The Providence Journal

PROVIDENCE - In U.S. District Court on Sept. 13, a judge, lawyers and jurors waited for a West Warwick man accused of running a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme.

But on the day of his trial, 58-year-old Thomas Huling was in a hotel room at Foxwoods, prosecutors say.

His failure to appear at trial two weeks ago was a consequential backdrop on Wednesday when he wore jailhouse scrubs to an appearance before Judge Mary S. McElroy.

This time, Huling waived his right to a trial and pleaded guilty to wire fraud and tax evasion. Under the plea deal, the government agreed to the dismissal of all other counts in the 21-count indictment.

The change of plea paved the way for McElroy to sentence him for schemes that defrauded investors and tax authorities and helped pay for his golf outings, restaurant dining and entertainment.

But Huling's lawyer wanted to know: Would McElroy allow him to go home before his sentencing?

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra R. Hebert had pointed guidance for McElroy on that request.

"When the going gets tough," she cautioned the judge, "he gets going."

Hebert told McElroy that she and a federal agent visited Foxwoods to view video that showed what Huling was doing while jurors waited for him in court.

They saw him checking into a Foxwoods hotel room on Sept. 11 and saw him emerging on Tuesday, Sept. 13. A valet pulled up in his Mercedes, and he got in and drove off.

On Sept. 12, a probation officer had telephoned him three times, Hebert said. He didn't pick up the phone, she said.

One victim had flown to Rhode Island for the trial, she said.

Huling's next move was to induce his own "medical emergency" by overdosing on a medication for regulating blood pressure, said Hebert, who accused him of trying to manipulate the justice system.

"It is intentional," she said. "It is by design. It will happen again."

The overdose preceded Huling's first taste of confinement.

Huling's lawyer, Rebecca L. Aitchison, told McElroy that he has made previous appearances in court.

She suggested that his experience in federal custody, including the hardships of being placed on suicide watch, was a learning experience. He wouldn't fail to appear again, she said.

Hebert's counterpoint was that Huling now faced prison time. He might flee, she said.

John N. Kane, an assistant chief of the U.S. Department of Justice's tax division, had told McElroy that Huling's wire-fraud scheme had financially harmed more than 10 victims and inflicted losses ranging from $3.5 million to $9.5 million.

The losses caused by his tax evasion cost $1.5 millionto $3.5 million, Kane said.

Huling was accused of soliciting money from investors by making false promises of quick and substantial earnings. He then used that money to satisfy earlier investors with "earnings" and to pay his own expenses.

McElroy said she agreed with Hebert that Huling was a flight risk. The defendant headed back to jail in handcuffs. His sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 19.

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Fraud, tax evasion defendant skipped trial, spent the day at Foxwoods


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