Man gets 41 months in scam that promised kingdom's riches

By Erin Mcclam, Associated Press, 3/12/2003 19:49

NEW YORK (AP) A man convicted in a scam that collected more than $3 million by promising people loans from a fake bank tied to a phony kingdom called Mombessa was sentenced Wednesday to 41 months in prison.

Brian Sherry had pleaded with a federal judge to sentence him to home confinement because he suffers from what his lawyer called ''end-stage AIDS.''

Sherry, of Manhattan, and two other men were convicted in August of posing as executives of a mock German investment house called Badische Trust Consortium that claimed to have been in business since 1850.

The government said the men claimed the Mombessa kingdom had granted the trust access to timber, gold and diamonds. Prosecutors said the men asked their victims for money up front in exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars in loans.

Prosecutors also said Sherry, who is in his early 40s, portrayed himself to investors as a prince and a colonel.

At a sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, Sherry argued he had been abused by his father and feared he would die in prison under poor medical care.

Prosecutors pointed out Sherry had been ill while he was committing the fraud, from 1997 to 2001.

The judge said she was reducing Sherry's sentence because of his advanced illness. Still, she said, ''The defendant is entitled to no more sympathy from me than he afforded his victims.''

She said she would decide Friday how much money Sherry owes in restitution. He was convicted on one count of conspiracy and 10 counts of wire fraud.

The two other man convicted in the scam Christopher Berwick, of Mount Vernon and Cesar A. Viana, of San Francisco are to be sentenced later this week. Each was convicted on fewer counts than Sherry.