The two women behind the "gifting table" pyramid scheme face 11 to 14 years in prison when they are sentenced Aug. 13 in federal court in Hartford, Conn.
In February, Donna Bello, 57, and Jill Platt, 65, of Guilford, Conn., were convicted by a federal grand jury of wire fraud, filing false tax returns, and conspiring to defraud the Internal Revenue Service.
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According to prosecutors, between 2008 and 2011, Bello and Platt defrauded the IRS by failing to report proceeds from the illegal pyramid scheme while encouraging other Connecticut women to follow suit, FOXCT reported.
To join the pyramid scheme, members had to pay $5,000 to become part of a "gifting table," in which they would recruit other women, to the "sisterhood," with the goal of eventually walking away with a $40,000 payout once members of the sisterhood recruit enough women.
More than $5 million was exchanged in the scheme, and more than 70 women made it to the top tier and were eligible for the $40,000 cash payout, according to a grand jury indictment.
Though the federal sentencing guidelines in this case is between 11 and 14 years in prison, a wire fraud charge by itself is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, while the false tax return charge carries a three-year maximum sentence, and the conspiracy charge carries a maximum of five years in prison, FOXCT noted.
"Despite their claims that the scheme was legal, the defendants repeatedly instructed the participants that they should not deposit the money they earned in the bank, but if the money had to be deposited, it should be done in small increments," the government’s memorandum in aid of sentencing states. "The defendants frequently explained to new members that the important thing was to avoid raising red flags or alerting the IRS."
Considering the actions of Bello and Platt in their dealing with "gifting table" members, government attorneys requested "that the Court impose a substantial sentence of imprisonment in this matter."
Bello’s attorney, Norm Pattis, said Bello was "devastated" over her felony conviction and maintained that she did not believe she was breaking the law in her attempt to avoid paying taxes.
Platt’s lawyer, Jonathan Einhorn, meanwhile, suggested that Platt was largely duped by Bello in the scheme.
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