A Baton Rouge single mom begged a federal judge Thursday to show no mercy to her cousin, convicted investment schemer Evers F. Harris, because he showed no mercy to her and scores of other people from whom he stole nearly half a million dollars.
“If he doesn’t want to pay us our money back, then I want him to get a long time in jail,” said Virginia Johnson, who lost the roughly $20,000 she had saved to send her son to college, at Harris’ sentencing hearing. “I’m begging you to give him no leniency because he gave us no leniency.”
Zaada Bonn, also of Baton Rouge, told U.S. District Judge James Brady that Harris bilked $62,000 from her now-deceased dad.
“While my father was dying, Evers Harris was living it up in Las Vegas,” she said, calling for a stiff sentence for the man found guilty by a federal jury last year on all eight counts of mail fraud.
Harris conceded at his trial he and his wife leased a $535,000 home in Las Vegas and spent investor funds on two Jaguar automobiles, diamond jewelry, expensive clothes and trips to casinos and spas.
He told jurors he felt pressure to spend money on “role playing” in an effort to sell secret inventions he hoped would earn money for his investors.
His wife was not charged with any offenses.
“The jury didn’t buy it. We ask you not to buy it. Enough is enough,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Shubhra Shivpuri said to the judge.
Brady, who presided over Harris’ trial, responded to Bonn’s, Johnson’s and the prosecutor’s pleas by ordering Harris to spend seven years and one month in prison and pay more than $209,000 in restitution to some of his victims.
He must report to prison Nov. 25.
“I think you entered into this scheme to raise money for yourself,” Brady told Harris, reminding him he defrauded 86 investors over three years.
“I don’t know why you let the greed take over as you did. It was cold. It was calculated. You can’t just go out and steal from people in such a callous and uncaring manner.”
Harris, 41, previously paid back some of his investors.
He apologized Thursday to his victims, including several family members, but Johnson and others in the courthroom audience could be heard saying, “Too late!”
Johnson called Harris’ investment plan a scam and said she fell victim to his “lies, deception and betrayal.”
Bonn said Harris “hijacked” her retirement plans.
Harris contends he never intended to defraud anyone and believed he could make money from plans to market a safe-driver program to state and local governments.
He claims he talked to mayors and law enforcement officials about his idea.
“I apologize that it failed,” he said.
Harris’ attorneys painted Harris as a self-taught businessman who simply failed at his first attempt at entrepreneurship.
Harris was living in Scottsdale, Ariz., when he was indicted in mid-2010. The indictment accused him of using Harris Investments LLC to defraud investors in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and New York.
He falsely promised investors they would receive between 20 percent and 40 percent interest on their money, the indictment added.
Harris admitted he told people their investments were fully insured, but did not tell them his wife was the only beneficiary of his $500,000 life insurance policy. He also admitted he did not tell people their investment account statements were falsely inflated.