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New Jersey gambling addict sentenced for fraud three times

Time in prison is supposed to be a deterrent to crime, but it does little good when the underlying problem of addiction is not recognized. A drug or gambling addict isn't likely to be reformed by incarceration unless the person undergoes simultaneous treatment. Recidivism is nearly certain when addiction is separated from criminal penalties.

A New Jersey man with no control over a gambling habit was convicted and imprisoned in two fraud cases before he was charged with a third. One day before his trial was set to open, the Margate defendant pleaded guilty to a scheme to defraud dozens of people including priests and nuns.

Investigators said the Margate resident conned victims, using his own name and aliases, into believing they had inherited hundreds of thousands of dollars. The targets apparently wired money they thought was covering inheritance taxes to Atlantic City casinos and a Mays Landing Wal-Mart without question.

One of the alleged victims committed suicide. Another made an unsuccessful attempt.

Prosecutors said the defendant continued the fraud scheme even after his indictment.

The 55-year-old man was ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution and serve an 18-year prison term, with three years of supervision after release.

A defendant who serves repeated time for the same crime is likely to continue the pattern unless steps are taken to stop the downward spiral. Someone has to notice the connection between behavior and a lifetime of addiction. A court must recognize that prison time alone will not be effective in the long-term.

A criminal defense attorney can include a request for addiction treatment when it is clear a defendant's habit is connected to criminal activity. Coping with the true problem is in the best interests of the public and the defendant, who is as much a prisoner of his own addiction as he is of the state.

Source: pressofatlanticcity.com, "'Ruthless con man' from Margate man gets 18 years for fraud against nun, two priests, others" Lynda Cohen, Aug. 16, 2013