A con-artist car dealer who fled to Europe after swindling millions from the rich and famous, including the actor Nicolas Cage, was sentenced yesterday to five years in federal prison.
Peter Brotman, whose consignment sales included a 1964 Rolls-Royce, a 1988 Aston Martin, and a 1954 Jaguar, was also ordered by a federal judge to pay $1.9 million in restitution.
Cage lost $300,000 through the sale of three Ferraris, according to court documents. Cage did not appear or address the court yesterday.
Brotman, 47, pleaded guilty to defrauding customers and the Willow Grove Bank. He sold cars on consignment but often pocketed the full proceeds and kept some creditors at bay with fanciful promises of a looming $450 million art deal, prosecutor Floyd J. Miller said.
"He used charisma, diction, grace, social connections, and lies on a scale that Charles Ponzi, the master swindler of all times, would have envied," Miller said. "He was the grand potentate in the classic-car industry, the individual to whom others turned for advice about the value of a rare car."
Brotman's lawyer, Noah Gorson, said "the pressure of keeping up led him to commit fraudulent acts."
Before he was sentenced, Brotman apologized to his victims and his family.
"I took from one to pay another, hoping and praying for a deal that would fix it all," he said. "I hid inside of a lie until I couldn't hide anymore."
He added: "I understand what I've done. I've created this mess. It's my monster."
The advisory federal sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of about four years. But U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick said Brotman deserved a five-year sentence because "of the magnitude of the crimes."
"The crimes are of the most serious nature and the thing that is most troubling about the crimes is that there were so many victims and the crimes seemed to occur over and over and over again," the judge said. "The indictment has some eight victims, plus the bank . . .. You literally defrauded people, apparently without conscience."
He added: "I have a great deal of difficultly concluding that these crimes are the result of bad business judgment. Quite frankly, Mr. Brotman, I think you are too smart for that. I think you knew exactly what you were doing."