Kenneth Starr, former money manager for Wesley Snipes, Al Pacino and Sylvester Stallone, was sentenced to 7 ½ years in prison. Last year Starr pled guilty to stealing over $30 million from his celebrity clients. The sentence is a bittersweet victory for me; we tried to alert authorities in January of 2008 that Starr was a fraud. No one listened.
In 2008 I had the honor of being part of the defense team for actor Wesley Snipes. During his trial, we issued a subpoena to Starr to produce records needed for Snipes’ defense. Starr not only failed to produce the records, he lied to both prosecutors and the court. Unfortunately, he was never sanctioned for his lies.
It would be more than 2 years before the feds listened and arrested Starr. When they raided his home, FBI agents found him hiding under his bed.
Starr went from a life of privilege to inmate number 63552-054.
Hopefully Starr’s former lawyer, Jonathan Bristol, will soon join him in federal prison.
Prosecutors say that Starr would steal monies from his clients’ accounts and transfer it to Bristol’s attorney trust account. When clients demanded money back, Starr and Bristol would move money around to keep clients from getting suspicious.
Bristol pleaded guilty in 2012 to a single count of money laundering. U.S. District Judge Batts didn’t give Bristol any jail time but did say he owed $19 million in restitution. (Judge Batts said Bristol suffered from “hero worship” although we wouldn’t have chosen those words. Starr is no hero.)
The two not only bilked celebrities. One of their victims was allegedly 100-year-old woman. (We say allegedly as Bristol pleaded only to the conspiracy charge.)
Like all Ponzi schemes, the house of cards falls when there is not enough new money to pay the claims of old investors seeking to cash out.
Where did all the money go? The government says that $7.6 million went to purchase a luxury Manhattan apartment for Star and his wife Passage. The judge believes that part of Starr’s motivation in committing the crimes was his infatuation with his young fourth wife, Passage. According to multiple media reports, Passage was a stripper and pole dancer prior to marrying Starr.
Although Starr told the court he was a “contrite… and ashamed man,” his lawyer told the judge he should receive lenient sentence because his victims were “incredibly wealthy.” Starr is no Robin Hood; stealing from the wealthy so you can have a $7.6 million dollar home doesn’t warrant leniency. Nor does stealing from the elderly.
Later in 2011, Starr was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison.
Stealing from celebrities is nothing new. Unfortunately we are working on another celebrity case and yet another money manager who has embezzled funds.
Lessons Learned – Whistleblowers Need an Effective Advocate
The Snipes case taught me first hand the frustrations of being a whistleblower. Who wants to blow the whistle if no one is willing to listen. Within a year of the Snipes trial I decided to leave my old firm and start a new boutique practice, one focused on whistleblowers.
By 2011 we filed the Allied Home Mortgage case, one where a jury would later find Allied and its owner guilty of fraud. The verdict against Allied? With interest, over $300,000,000.00. In 2014 we filed the Bank of America whistleblower case that would result in a record $16.7 billion settlement.
What changed between 2008 and now? Lots! Many law firms claim to represent whistleblowers but our firm focuses on it. Whistleblowers are our primary focus.
The whistleblower lawyers at Mahany Law have assembled a dream team of great lawyers and former government prosecutors. Everything we do is centered around our whistleblower clients. We work tirelessly to help them fight greed, stop fraud and earn the largest whistleblower rewards possible.
Ready to learn more? Download our 11 Step Guide to Blowing the Whistle. Ready to see if you have a case? Contact us online, by email or by phone 202-800-9791.
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