"You would just see that he exudes sincerity and you would just see that you could trust him," Robert Melik Finkle said.
Melik Finkle is a victim in one of Vermont's largest fraud schemes ever. A movie meant to deliver spiritual healing, titled "The Birth of Innocence," has now sent two men to jail. On Wednesday in federal court, Mac Parker was sentenced to four years and six months.
"He took $360,000 from me-- which is a lifetime worth of money," victim Jerry Rule said.
The decade-long Ponzi scheme involved nearly 400 victims. Parker and his spiritual mentor, Louis Soteriou, received approximately $28 million in investor money to make the movie. But millions went directly into their pockets instead.
For Melik Finkle and many others who knew Parker and trusted him, jail time is justice served.
"But, I said, but if it turns out that he lied to me, I will have no compunctions about sending him to jail. So, I feel vindicated now; I've done that," Melik Finkle said.
Many of the victims were from the same community where Parker lives, and say they only invested because they believed in him. Some testified in court.
One said, "I barely live on welfare, while Parker and his family have been living on our money for 10 years." And "Is this safe? I cannot lose this money, it is my retirement. He assured me, it was."
Others though, spoke in Parker's favor and argued against sending him to jail. One said, "I truly believe our best hope for restitution is for him to be allowed to continue to create." And "Incarceration would be counterproductive and would accomplish nothing."
Parker delivered a statement through tears to the crowd of victims behind him. He said: "There is no sentence your honor, that you can give me that will be more painful for what I already feel." And "I was naive, I was foolish, I was delusional, and I was wrong. You were not wrong to trust me. I was wrong to violate your trust.
Despite the millions of dollars lost, some victims say they are still trying to remain positive.
"I haven't lost trust in the rest of Vermont. I still don't lock my doors. But don't tell them where I live!" victim Sally Fellows said with a laugh.
The judge ordered that restitution must be resolved within 45 days. The courts have yet to decide who has legal rights to "The Birth of Innocence" and any profits if it's ever sold. There are also talks of a company interested in making a documentary about the making of this movie. If that ever happens, investors could see money back from those proceeds.
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