A man admitted to selling more than a million dollars worth of low-value, knockoff gemstones to senior citizens across the nation and in San Diego at his sentencing Monday.
Prosecutors said William Phillips is one of the slickest, fast-talking con men they've ever encountered. At least a dozen victims lost more than $2 million in his complex gemstone scam.
Phillips and his wife, Lisa Sidney, developed their ruse from a multi-million dollar home-office space in Rancho Santa Fe, where they'd sell subpar gemstones to their victims.
The couple pleaded guilty to four felonies and vowed to pay back the clients they ripped off. Although they have now returned much of their ill-gotten gains, one victim, Carole Boshell, demanded a long prison sentence for the defendants in any case.
"I can't see a couple of years, for what they did over 30 years to people. Thirty years, they deceived people," said Boshell.
Prosecutors said he promised his elderly clients that the stones were top quality, despite knowing they were nearly worthless. One victim, Judy Cunningham, testified that Phillips offered to invest 50-50 with her on the gemstones.
"And I thought, that has to be strange," said Cunningham. "I've never met this man. Why would he choose me above all these other clients? And that's when I finally woke up and told a friend, and we called the district attorney."
Judge Kenneth So sternly stared at Phillips regarding his verdict.
"You stole money," said So flatly. "You defrauded folks who are incredibly vulnerable."
Phillips solemnly promised he would do whatever is necessary to repent for his scam.
"I'm wrong, and I will l pay for it for the rest of my life, emotionally, mentally, physically, you know, financially," said Phillips. "Anything that it will take to make that happen, to make everyone whole."
Phillips was sentenced to four years in jail with an additional five years of probation. His wife, Lisa Sidney, will serve four months in custody and five years of probation.
Prosecutors said Phillips sold fraudulent gemstones to the elderly for at least 25 years. In 1991, one victim filed a civil lawsuit against him in New Jersey.
Back then, police dropped all the charges. In this case, even Phillips' probation officer called him "charming."