Long Island’s so-called "mini-Madoff" was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison for operating a nearly $400 million Ponzi scheme that targeted 4,000 people.
Nicholas Cosmo had duped investors into investing their life savings in his Agape World firm in Happauge by promising big returns. His lies collapsed in January 2009, weeks after the Bernard Madoff scheme began to unfold.
In addition to receiving a 25 year prison sentence, Judge Denis Hurley ordered Cosmo to pay more than $179 million in restitution, which was the total amount victims lost in the scheme.
However, much of the money will never be recovered. That made for a rather contentious courtroom environment as the victims spoke their minds. At one point, the judge had to demand order in the court.
"It wasn't my intention to ever hurt anyone. But I hurt them and I stand here as a guilty man,'' Cosmo told the court. "I am truly sorry from the bottom of my heart. I know that probably fall on deaf ears. There's not a day that goes by that I am not ashamed for what I have done."
Victims ranged from everyday workers to U.S. soldiers who learned they lost everything while serving overseas.
Cosmo, 40, had previously served jail time for fraud in the 1990s. Some of Agape’s workers were also convicted felons.
Cosmo pleaded guilty last October and has been held behind bars awaiting sentencing.
"The defendant's actions crushed the hopes and dreams of everyday citizens," said US Attorney Loretta Lynch. "Those who lie and steal from the investing public are on notice that they face severe penalties."