DENVER - A con man has pleaded guilty to a scheme where he used hard-luck stories to swindle an 89-year-old widower out of $500,000 over five years.
Akihiko Siegfried, 55, formerly of Denver, pleaded guilty in Denver federal court Monday to one count of mail fraud and one count of money laundering, federal law enforcement authorities said Wednesday.
The scam began in January 2008 when Siegfried knocked on the door of an 89-year-old man's Denver-area home, authorities said.
Siegfried pretended to be distraught, weeping as he told the elderly stranger that Siegfried's parents had just died in a car crash and that he had no money and no family to turn to for help, according to a federal indictment and admissions Siegfried made in the plea agreement.
Siegfried asked to borrow money. The victim, a widower of Japanese descent with little family, asked Siegfried if he, too, was Japanese. Siegfried truthfully told the man he was of Japanese descent.
The elderly man felt sorry for Siegfried and, in part because of their shared Japanese heritage, decided to help him.
Siegfried repeatedly borrowed money from the man, assuring the victim that he would repay him after he received a substantial inheritance as a result of his parents’ death, court records state. But Siegfried said the inheritance would be tied up in probate court for some time and he needed money to pay related fees and taxes.
In reality, Siegfried's father died in the 1990s, his mother died in 2002 and there was never any inheritance, authorities said. But from 2008 through March of 2013, Siegfried kept lying, telling the victim his inheritance was still tied up in probate, according to federal court records.
Meanwhile, Siegfried pleaded guilty in Jefferson County court in April 2009 to felony drug possession and was sentenced to 30 months in state prison. The con man kept bouncing in and out prison because of parole violations, court records state.
Even behind bars, Siegfried kept calling and sending letters to the elderly victim, asking for money and directing the victim to deposit and wire transfer money to Siegfried’s inmate account with the Colorado Department of Corrections.
Siegfried told the victim he needed the money because he was required to pay for his diabetes medicine in prison, court records state.
In reality, Siegfried has never been diagnosed with diabetes, has never taken medication for diabetes, and Colorado prison inmates are not required to pay for medicine prescribed to them while they are in custody, authorities said.
Siegfried agrees that, from January 2008 through March 2013, he talked the victim out of at least $400,000. His sentence will include an order of restitution of at least $400,001 and up to $560,861, said Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.
"All too often, con men prey on our senior citizens and steal their life savings," said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. "Protecting the public -- and particularly seniors -- from fraud is one of the top priorities of this office. The defendant in this case will face the full weight of the law at sentencing."
Mail fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
Siegfried, who is currently in custody, is scheduled to be sentenced on March 10.
He has a 10-page criminal history in Colorado, including arrests for brandishing a deadly weapon, drug possession, assault, domestic violence, burglary and theft, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation database.