Spoiler Alert! Con Artist Pleads Guilty To Trying To Fix Federal Prison Sentence

February 8, 2012

On August 26, 2011, Austin Galvan, 30, Omaha, NE, was arrested by FBI agents and on August 29th, he was charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of obstruction of justice in a federal indictment in the U.S. District Court for Nebraska.

WARNING: Spoiler Alert! On February 6, 2012, Galvan pleaded guilty to wire fraud.

Okay, you're right, I sort of gave away the ending there - not how I tend to write about these things. Frankly, I sort of enjoy milking a good story.  On the other hand, the point about Galvan's crime isn't so much his guilty plea but the artistry with which he constructed his con.

According to the Indictment, Galvan had an associate who was facing federal criminal charges in Nebraska.  An associate in what?  Hey, I don't know and the prosecutor's press release didn't spell in out. TheIndictment doesn't call the fellow in trouble Galvan's "friend" and pointedly uses the term "associate," so, let's just stay with that characterization.

I Got A Contact

Anyway, in conversations with his associate in May and June 2010, Galvan urged him not to cooperate with federal authorities. Galvan says that he has a law enforcement contact in Nebraska.  For the associate who is apparently headed for trouble with the law in Nebraska, such a "contact" could be really, really helpful - particularly since Galvan tells his associate that the law enforcement contact could secure a substantial reduction in his associate's prison sentence. Not just a reduction but a substantial one.

Of course, at some point, you know how it goes, Galvan probably says to his associate: It's gonna cost you. The cost was apparently the cost of bribing the contact.  If Galvan got a few bucks for arranging things, I guess that would sort of be included in the package.  I don't know how much or if the associate coughed up the bucks because I can't find a specific reference to the dollar amounts in the press release about this case. So, feel free to use your imagination.

Clam Up

Allegedly, Galvan urged his associate not to cooperate with federal authorities. That's a dangerous gambit. You cooperate, you might get some sentencing considerations or a reduction in charges.  You don't cooperate and the prosecutors often get pissy about it - and the judge may decide to throw a very large book at you for not showing remorse.  Still, Galvan had this law enforcement contact and was advising the associate to clam up and hang tough.

The Tape And The Card

Perhaps in an effort to seal the deal and prove his connections, Galvan gave his associate what he claimed was official material given to him by his purported law enforcement contact  - an audio recording of a court hearing. In fact, the Indictment alleged that Galvan merely downloaded the recording from the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system (PACER).  Let's not be too harsh on Galvan. At least he went to the trouble of logging on to PACER and finding a publicly released recording.  A less ambitious scamster might have simply surfed through YouTube or Google.

Still - Galvan had one last deft touch.

Galvan provided his associate with what he claimed to be the business card of a federal judge.  Not just any federal judge but the one who would assist in securing the sentence reduction.  I mean, wow, you got a tape of a public hearing and some judge's business card.  If I were in a world of hurt with the feds that would be enough proof to get me to fork over a bribe and clam up. Yeah. Sure. Uh huh. Course I would. You betcha.

Alas, Galvan wasn't exactly on the up and up.  You know that federal judge's business card?  Well, seems that this particular judge wasn't even handling the associate's case. Minor oversight, I guess.  Then you know that much ballyhooed "law enforcement contact" that Galvan had in his pocket?  Yeah, a figment of his imagination.  Oops!

Perhaps a somewhat funny tale of a future con being conned by a con artist, who may also become a future con.  On the other hand, this whole saga is far from a joke.

Serious Business

In March 2011, Galvan's associate was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and to being a felon in possession of a firearm. When you add in the part about the amphetamines and firearms, the humor sort of vanishes from this story.

Galvan faced up to 20 years in prison on the wire fraud charge, up to 10 years in prison on the obstruction charge, and maximum fines of $250,000 for each count.  In light of Galvan's plea agreement to only the wire fraud, he now faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for May 2012.

I'm sure that Galvan is hoping that he doesn't become cellmates with his old associate.  I'm not so sure the two old pals will have a good laugh about this one.