Coto man gets 27 years in prison for cheating 2,500 investors
“Colin Nathanson told victims their money would fund tech firm, but he used cash for golf company, gambling debts.”
A Coto de Caza man was sentenced to 27 years in prison today for defrauding about 2,500 victims in a $55 million scheme in which he told investors he would use their money for a technology startup, but instead funneled the cash to pay for his homes and to fund his unprofitable golf companies.
Colin Nathanson, 62, was president and CEO of Giant Golf Co. and Play Big Enterprises Inc., both of which sold golf clubs and accessories out of Irvine and Rancho Santa Margarita.
Today, at his sentencing hearing, Nathanson apologized for his actions to U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney.
“I just want to reiterate and whatever I did there’s no excuse. I can’t explain how sorry I am how bad the things are that I did what I did was terrible, sir,” he said. “There was never intent to hurt anybody. One thing led to another and it just got out of hand. And it was wrong.”
He pleaded guilty in October 2008 to six counts of mail fraud, and admitted that he induced several hundred people to invest in what he said were ownership interests in a privately held, Internet-based technology company, according to prosecutors.
The company didn’t exist. Instead, Nathanson used the investors’ money to finance the golf companies and pay for personal expenses such as gambling debts and making payments for three houses in Coto de Caza and Trabuco Canyon.
During the hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Keenan said Nathanson ran a “sophisticated scheme,” and said one victim was a federal agent who probed fraud cases. The agent thought the scam was legitimate, and even encouraged friends and family to invest. “He was charged here because he lied to people over and over again,” Keenan said. “He wasn’t straight with his investors. He kept them in dark.”
Carney said it was evident Nathanson used some of the money to fund his “comfortable lifestyle.” He also said he was disturbed how Nathanson betrayed the trust of his victims, and that it didn’t appear the victims would be able to get restitution.
“Mr. Nathanson’s crimes were terrible and serious ones,” the judge said upon imposing the sentence. “The victims have lost their savings, retirements and peace of mind in essence I believe a life sentence is an appropriate sentence.”
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