He was described by one victim as the "Michael Jordan" of the classic-car industry, the go-to guy if you wanted to sell a classic or vintage car.
But authorities said Peter Brotman was really a con man who bilked actor Nicolas Cage and seven others out of more than $1.2 million in 2002, '03 and '04.
A federal judge yesterday sentenced Brotman, 47, of Newtown Square, to five years behind bars and ordered him to pay restitution of $1.9 million.
U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick said Brotman had "defrauded many people" and had done so "without conscience."
Brotman took collectible cars from their owners on consignment, promising to sell their cars and give them the proceeds after deducting expenses and a commission.
But the feds said Brotman kept the money for himself and paid back only Cage, who received a partial payment from the sale of three Ferraris and a Cobra. Still, the feds said Cage lost $300,000.
When clients asked for their money, Brotman sent them faxes and e-mails that he was brokering the sale of a $450 million European art collection and would pay them soon. The feds said the art deal was bogus.
One time Brotman promised to sell a client's 1998 Bentley but gave the car to a third party to pay off a personal debt. At other times, victims were sent checks drawn on bank accounts with insufficient funds.
The feds also said Brotman had defrauded a bank of $950,000 it had loaned to him to run his classic-car business, Philadelphia Motor Sports. Cage was not in the courtroom, but the son of one victim - who has since died - testified that his father had Alzheimer's disease when he hired Brotman to sell a 1964 Rolls Royce and a 1988 Aston Martin.
"My father felt he was being conned," said Alan Kirsch Jr.
Prosecutor Floyd J. Miller said Brotman's sentence reflected Brotman's "unmitigated greed and lack of a moral compass."
Brotman's attorney, Noah Gorson, said he was disappointed but understood the judge's reasoning.
An international arrest warrant was issued last year for Brotman, who had gone to France when he learned authorities were investigating him for fraud.
He was arrested by Spanish authorities in Barcelona last August. Brotman pleaded guilty in January to wire, mail and bank fraud.
In a tearful statement yesterday, Brotman apologized to his victims but blamed his troubles on poor judgment and a flashy lifestyle he couldn't sustain.
"I couldn't fathom losing and letting everybody down," Brotman said.