Swampscott man sentenced for swindling elderly immigrant

  • In US
  • 2021-09-15 01:48:00Z
  • By The Salem News, Mass.

Sep. 14-SWAMPSCOTT - A Swampscott man who pleaded guilty earlier this year to swindling an elderly Russian immigrant and stroke victim out of her life savings was sentenced on Tuesday to 33 months in federal prison.

Felix Gorovodsky, 29, of 18 Paradise Road, had entered a plea agreement in April with federal prosecutors, who had agreed to recommend that 33-month federal prison term and restitution of at least $310,000. He pleaded guilty in May to a charge of bank fraud.

But sentencing memos in the case show that the court's pretrial services department believed that the crime merited a longer sentence, touching off a series of filings by both prosecutors and Gorovodsky's attorney, asking Judge Denise Casper to go along with their prior agreement.

Casper did so during Tuesday's sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court.

The victim is a 79-year-old Texas woman who emigrated to the United States with her now-deceased husband, an engineer, during the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s.

Gorovodsky's parents, who are now divorced, arrived in the United States from Russia in 1990, escaping persecution as Jews, according to his attorney.

According to court papers, Gorovodsky's mother came to know the victim through a network of other Russian immigrants who planned to retire to Ecuador.

The victim, who spoke no English, needed help handling her financial affairs after the death of her husband. Though Gorovodsky had no background as a financial planner and had been working in Singapore for Interpol, his mother recommended him to the victim as someone who could help her.

Prosecutors say Gorovodsky "almost immediately" began stealing from the woman, taking funds from a brokerage account and, they say, forging documents to cover his tracks. Later, he became the woman's power of attorney, posing as her nephew, and opened a Capital One account to hold the proceeds from the sale of her Houston, Texas, home.

Later, after the woman became suspicious and ended his power of attorney, Gorovodsky - who had secretly added his name to the account - withdrew nearly $260,000, telling the bank that the money was a gift because the victim had no children of her own. To back up his claim, he forged a letter from the woman, and told the bank that he still held power of attorney.

Gorovodsky used the money to pay off $100,000 in student debt and another $13,000 in credit card debt.

Federal prosecutors said the fraud "is not the largest nor the most sophisticated to appear on this Court's docket."

"But it was a personal fraud, a fraud that involved a violation of duties of trust and loyalty, a fraud that targeted a vulnerable, elderly victim, and a fraud that required lies from its inception to its conclusion, including lies to a federal court," prosecutor Ian Stearns wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

Gorovodsky's attorney, Jane Peachy, said in a sentencing memo that Gorovodsky's parents had divorced when he was a child, leaving his mother to struggle as a single parent. She suggested that Gorovodsky is a "highly educated young man with a bright future" who became desperate after being fired from Interpol and ending an engagement.

She said Gorovodsky is "remorseful" and he's worked to earn money toward the restitution he owes. Peachy blamed media coverage for Gorovodsky's inability to obtain a job in his field of information technology, but said he's been working at a home improvement store in Salem since April and he will use some of the money he's earned to make a payment toward his $310,000 restitution.

Following his prison term, he will spend two years on supervised release, the court ordered.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis


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