A con artist who preyed on retirees - many of them former Philadelphia and Bucks County teachers - was sentenced by a federal judge to 10 years in prison Friday for fleecing more than 50 victims of almost $4.3 million.
U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick also ordered Robert Sturman to make restitution of more than $4.2 million.
Sturman, 57, who lived at numerous addresses in Montgomery and Bucks counties, pleaded guilty in July to mail fraud, wire fraud and interstate transportation of stolen property.
Sturman said he was sorry for his misdeeds, and, although Surrick gave him credit for accepting responsibility, the judge imposed a sentence above the advisory guidelines because of the nature of the crimes.
Authorities said that Sturman, held without bail since his arrest in July 2009, used a variety of investment schemes from November 1997 to February 2007 to entice victims to part with their money and retirement savings.
Federal prosecutors said in court papers that Sturman, once a legitimate insurance agent and investment adviser, had gained the trust of clients over the years with legitimate financial services.
He then began approaching clients and their families and friends to offer investment opportunities, authorities said.
One opportunity Sturman pitched, according to court documents, was a scheme in which he told clients that he would use their money to buy large blocks of tickets to sporting and entertainment events, then "flip" them at a significant profit, in which he and the investors would share.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Grigsby said that it was simply a ruse to steal money from his victims.
The feds said Sturman was motivated by greed and a "complete willingness" to bilk any victim of as much money as possible, regardless of the victim's personal circumstances.
Court papers said that Sturman stole $500,000 in life-insurance proceeds from a widow less than two months after she buried her husband in April 2005.
The woman, Cynthia Weiss, of Voorhees, N.J., wrote in a letter to Surrick that her husband, Fredric, had been a career science teacher with the School District of Philadelphia before retiring in 2002.
While he was dying of kidney cancer, they had regular meetings with Sturman in which he promised over and over that she would have no financial worries.
"How do you lie straight-faced to a dying man and his soon-to-be widow that you've known for 20 years?" Weiss asked.