Judge may reject guilty plea deal for USA Capital president

Chief U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt Friday said he expects to reject the guilty plea agreement that calls for an eight- to 12-year prison sentence for Joseph Milanowski, 48, president of failed USA Capital.

Hunt said federal sentencing guidelines and a report from the probation department indicates a longer sentence would be appropriate for the wire fraud case against Milanowski.

Defense attorney Dayvid Figler said Milanowski could be sentenced to 20 years or potentially longer, but Figler said he hopes the probation department will amend its report to include facts that would support the shorter sentence recommended by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

“Nobody is discussing 20 years for Mr. Milanowski,” Figler said. “If the court wanted to impose a sentence of 20 years which would be going with the guidelines theoretically without taking anything else into consideration, Mr. Milanowski would be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea and the government would be forced to go to trial.”

USA Capital solicited money from individual investors, many of them retired, and used the money to make short-term loans secured by real estate.

The private lender filed for bankruptcy in 2006 while managing $962 million in investments for about 6,000 investors around the country.

The amount of money taken by fraud was between $50 million and $100 million, only a fraction of the total losses at USA Capital, said Assistant United States Attorney Daniel Schies.

Milanowski is the only one who has been charged with a crime related to the USA Capital failure.

During the hearing Friday, attorneys and Hunt discussed the level of cooperation that Milanowski has provided prosecutors and other attorneys seeking to recover money for investors.

Partly because of Milanowski’s cooperation, the prosecution recommended that Hunt sentence Milanowski to 12 years with the provision that prosecutors could recommend lowering the sentence to eight years if Milanowski continues to be helpful.

“The court currently is not inclined to follow the recommendation but (acceptance of the recommendation) is not precluded,” Hunt said.

The judge said Milanowski could withdraw his guilty plea if he, Hunt, sentences Milanowski to more than 12 years in prison.

Hunt sat next to a 11/2-foot stack of letters from investors in USA Capital. Some wrote that they believed losses at USA Capital led to their parents’ suicide, the judge said.

“It’s highly unlikely the court will follow the sentencing recommendations in the plea agreement,” Hunt said.

Schiess said the prosecution agreed to the eight- to 12-year sentence in part because of cooperation Milanowski is providing to recover money for investors.

“He told us he would do whatever it took to obtain money for investors,” Schiess said. The prosecutor also was impressed that Milanowski didn’t have a “lavish lifestyle” with foreign vacations or expensive sports cars.

Figler said that Milanowski moved investor money inside USA Capital, but Milanowski did not put investor money in his own pocket.

Donald Pensler, a retired police officer and television broadcast engineer, suggested that the prosecution was taking positions favorable to Milanowski.

“I don’t have any faith in your office, Mr. Schiess,” Pensler said.

Hunt said he was “offended” that victims of fraud at USA Capital accused him and other judges of protecting Milanowski and delaying Milanowski’s sentencing.

Most investors in USA Capital focused their anger on Milanowski.

Karen Allison, 68, said she wanted to “look into the eyes of someone who could coolly steal millions of dollars from retirees who trusted him.”

She said she lost most of the $175,000 she invested with USA Capital.

“All I can see ahead of me,” Allison said, “is more hard work without the opportunity ever to rebuild what was stolen from me by Mr. Milanowski and friends.”

Ronald Sharpe said his 85-year-old father, a wounded veteran of Gen. George Patton’s 4th Armored Division in World War II, lost $50,000 at USA Capital.

“That’s all the money he had in the world,” Sharpe said, “and that money is now gone.”

Another investor, Eva Gehle, 74, said her only surviving son has cancer. “I cannot return to work. I will never recover the money I lost.”

Contact reporter John G. Edwards at jedwards @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0420.

Holiday Parade Lights Up Downtown Summerlin
Holiday parade lights up Downtown Summerlin every Friday and Saturday night through Dec. 22.
Nevada's solar industry on the rebound
In 2015, the Nevada Public Utilities Commission voted in favor of a new tariff structure that reduced net energy metering buyback rates and increased fix fees for residential solar customers.
Apartment complexes selling fast in Las Vegas
Las Vegas’ apartment vacancy rate is among the smallest in the country, and rents are climbing faster than the national average. (LVRJ)
Aristocrat Opens $45M Campus In Summerlin
Aristocrat Technologies Chairman Ian Blackburne discusses the company's growth. (LVRJ)
Sunrise Hospital celebrates 60 years
Sunrise Hospital opened its doors to patients on Dec. 15, 1958. Employees of more than 35 years celebrated at a luncheon Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. Jessie Bekker/ Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Maya Cinemas to open soon in North Las Vegas
Moctesuma Esparza, CEO of Maya Cinemas, talks about the newest location in North Las Vegas, set to open Jan. 10. The aim of the theatre chain is to serve latino-centric, underserved communities.
Holiday shopping and returns make this the busiest time of year for UPS
The UPS Las Vegas South facility is the company's busiest pre-load operation in the country, and it's even busier this time of year. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Primm’s outlet mall has fallen on hard times
The mall, attached to Primm Valley Resort, opened in 1998. Back then, it was a “textbook, perfect outlet-center location." But now, Primm’s outlet mall has fallen on hard times. Las Vegas Boulevard has endless shopping spots. And there are other outlet malls that don’t require a hefty drive to the state line. Its mortgage-holder foreclosed on the mall in late September.
Miltary auction at Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers
Humvees, ammo cans, construction equipment, field gear and more is on the auction block Friday and Saturday at Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers. About 10,000 items in all are for sale in what GovPlanet bills as the largest auction of its kind.
Las Vegas residents discuss avoiding holiday scams
Las Vegas residents discuss their donation habits and how they avoid giving money to scam charities during the holiday season. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory ahead of economic impact expectations
The Tesla Gigafactory’s economic impact on Nevada has exceeded projections, bringing in more than 7,000 jobs. In 2014, Nevada agreed to give the automotive and energy company $1.3 billion in tax abatements. In return, Tesla promised to meet certain requirements in areas like employment and capital investment. As of June, Tesla has brought in a total of $6.05 billion in capital investment, surpassing the $4.95 billion projection. The original contract gave the company until 2024 to make $3.5 billion in capital investments in Nevada. Derek Armstrong, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
Land sales near the Las Vegas Raiders stadium
Land around the Las Vegas stadium site has been selling for high prices. A few months before the stadium’s groundbreaking, Global Trust Group acquired a 2.5-acre parcel just north of the stadium site. The property sold for $7.25 million, or $2.9 million an acre. Osprey Real Estate Capital and Huntington Hotel Group acquired a 2-acre industrial site just west of the stadium site in late November. The property sold for $6.5 million, or $3.15 million per acre. That's roughly 12 times the average price of land in the valley this year as tracked by Colliers International.
T-Mobile Tech Experience Truck parks in Toshiba Plaza at T-Mobile Arena
The Tech Experience Truck is a state-of-the-art showroom on wheels, with demonstrations that put connected drones, smart cities, augmented/virtual reality and smart tracking. The exhibit shows new wireless technology – including 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT). (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Steve Siegel, CEO of the Siegel Group, speaks about helping families and other needy residents
Steve Siegel, CEO of the Siegel Group, speaks about helping families and other needy residents to keep them from teetering off into homelessness. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vrgas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Crowds camp out for Chick-fil-A opening
Dozens of customers camped out 24 hours ahead of the 6 a.m. Thursday opening of the new Chick-fil-A on Rainbow Blvd.
Cheapest listings for sale in Las Vegas
Listed for $39,990, 585 S. Royal Crest Circle, Unit #9 is one of the cheapest homes currently listed for sale in Las Vegas. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM's sports betting deals
MGM Resorts International signed a sports betting sponsorship agreement with the NBA in July It was the first professional sports league to have official ties with a legal sports betting house. The deal came just two months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law prohibiting sports betting in most states. In October, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the NHL. In November, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the MLB. Financial terms of Tuesday’s deal and earlier partnerships have not been announced.
Terry Miller discusses Convention Center
Project Manager Terry Miller explains the phases of Convention Center construction.
Zappos treats their team members on Cyber Monday
Zappos rolls out a variety of food, drinks and special activities for all team members at their downtown Las Vegas headquarters for Cyber Monday. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Team Hybrid at the 2019-Model Motor Trend International Auto Show
Among the companies showing off the 2019 model cars, Team Hybrid shows off its modified cars. Las Vegas resident David David talks about the team, which is in its ninth year exhibiting at the show, and his show car.
Black Friday Shoppers at downtown Summerlin and at the Arsenal
Black Friday shoppers at downtown Summerlin and at the Arsenal. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfYe
Black Friday shopping in Las Vegas
Black Friday sale shopers express their shopping experience. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas Livestock recycling Strip food waste
Las Vegas Livestock collects and recycles food from many Las Vegas Strip companies. (Nicole Raz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Black Friday at Fry's
Shoppers line up for deals early on Black Friday at Fry's Electronics on Las Vegas Boulevard South. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Black Friday shoppers at Best Buy at 5 am
Black Friday shoppers at Best Buy at 5 am on Nov. 23. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Black Friday - 1am Closing Time
Quiet night.
Black Friday - 12:30am - Best Buy Arroyo Crossing
Sam's Town Holiday Lighting Ceremony
On Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018, Mystic Falls Park opened with its annual tree lighting ceremony, hosted by Boyd Gaming Executive Chairman Bill Boyd. The attraction features a Winter Wonderland theme and holiday-inspired laser light show, available daily Nov. 23 to Jan. 1. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What Is A Smart City?
George Karayannis, vice president of CityNow, Panasonic’s smart-city arm, explains. (Nicole Raz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Walmart uses virtual reality to train employees
Walmart Academy Facilitator demonstrates the VR training program being used by Walmart stores across the country.
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like