Rogerio Scotton was already facing a long time in prison for committing fraud but the shenanigans he pulled during his trial — even pretending that he had sex tapes to show the jury — earned him a couple of extra years behind bars on Friday.
The Brazilian-born former race-car driver was convicted this year of ripping off more than $2.5 million from shipping companies and lying to federal agents about his sham marriage to a Cuban woman.
Scotton, 43, of Boca Raton and Margate, wound up acting as his own defense in the trial in federal court in Fort Lauderdale after clashing with a succession of six lawyers who had represented him.
Though judges make a lot of allowances when people with no legal training represent themselves in court, U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum ruled Friday that Scotton used the proceedings to try to obstruct justice, introduce fabricated evidence, intimidate witnesses and trick jurors and the judge.
The judge sentenced Scotton to a total of nine years in prison — seven years for committing 27 counts of mail fraud and two years for two more charges of lying to immigration officials about his marriage. She said she imposed a longer sentence than Scotton would have faced if he had behaved appropriately in court. Scotton faces deportation after serving his punishment.
Federal prosecutor Bertha Mitrani said Friday that Scotton was still blaming everyone else for his criminal conduct.
"Everybody is responsible for the defendant's plight except the defendant," Mitrani said. "This is an individual who has always gotten his way by bullying, by fabricating and getting away with it."
Prosecutors said that Scotton, a professional race-car driver who started his own Boca Raton-based online business that shipped electronics and other goods to Brazil, set up fraudulent accounts with FedEx, UPS and DHL.
Scotton charged his customers less than the going rate for shipping costs and used the fraudulent accounts — that he set up by pretending he worked for major companies including Amazon, Wal-Mart and Target — to ship the items, prosecutors said. The shipping companies suffered a $2.5 million loss as a result, authorities said.
He also was found guilty of two counts of lying to immigration officials about his marriage to a Cuban woman. Jurors found that the Brazilian citizen entered into a sham marriage with Ailyn Mollinedo in July 2008 so that he could remain in the United States.
Mollinedo testified that the marriage was one of convenience. She said that she had never lived with Scotton and never had sex with him. Under U.S. immigration rules, foreign citizens who marry Cuban nationals may qualify for U.S. permanent resident status.
Prosecutors said that Scotton bullied Mollinedo and tried to control her by holding on to her green card. Mollinedo testified that she entered into the marriage as a favor to Scotton and stayed in it because he threatened her and her family if she told the truth.
Scotton insisted that the marriage was real and insisted many times in court that he had video footage of him having sex with Mollinedo that he wanted to show the judge and jury to prove that their relationship was real.
The judge said Friday that there was no evidence at all that any such video had ever existed and that Scotton's continued pretense in court — to her and the jury — was "absolutely inappropriate and obstructive."
The sex-tapes pretense was just one of many inappropriate acts committed by Scotton, the judge said.
"I don't think they were indiscretions," Rosenbaum said. "I think they were purposeful attempts to mislead this jury and this court."
One female witness felt so strongly that Scotton was trying to intimidate her that she asked — and received permission from the judge — to stand for several hours of cross-examination when Scotton questioned her during the trial.
"I've never before seen a witness stand through three hours of cross-examination … because, in her words, she didn't want to be at a lower level than him," the judge said. "She was demonstrating that he was trying to intimidate her."
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