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Man To Pay $400 Per Month On $1.4 Million Restitution Bill

May 15, 2019 GMT

SCRANTON — A convicted financial scammer who owes victims $1.4 million in restitution has repaid just $2,523 while squandering more than $30,000 on gambling, a federal prosecutor said Tuesday. John F. Turant Jr., 53, of Pittston, also received a $189,000 settlement of a workers’ compensation claim last year, but paid just $700 toward the restitution, according to testimony at a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick. Turant was sentenced in May 2005 to 84 months in federal prison for his guilty plea to mail fraud and conspiracy in connection with a financial scheme that cost 85 investors $2.5 million. Prosecutors said Turant and a co-defendant, Russ Luciano, convinced more than 100 people to invest $4.5 million into several hedge funds they operated, but placed just $1.36 million into the accounts. The rest was lost on investments or paid to themselves or other investors. Luciano pleaded guilty in March 2005 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and was later sentenced to 50 months in prison. He also was ordered to pay $1.4 million in restitution. Turant had been paying restitution of $50 per month. Prosecutors in April sought a hearing on the matter after they discovered Turant had several bank accounts he failed to report to authorities. Testifying Tuesday before Mehalchick, Turant said he was seriously injured in a work-related truck accident and is struggling to pay living expenses. He said he is behind on utility payments and owes more than $40,000 on a credit card he and his girlfriend use primarily to pay living expenses. Questioned by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenny Roberts, Turant acknowledged he received a $189,000 settlement of a workers’ compensation claim, but did not make any substantial payment toward the restitution. He instead invested it in the stock market and lost the money, he said. He also admitted he continues to spend $600 to $1,200 a month on gambling. “If you didn’t spend it on gambling or investments, you could have given it to your victims,” Roberts said. After testimony concluded, Mehalchick directed Roberts and Turant’s attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Brandon Reish, to confer and try to reach an agreement. They returned about 15 minutes later and agreed Turant will now pay $400 a month, which will be directly debited from Turant’s bank account. Contact the writer: tbesecker@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9137; @tmbeseckerTT on Twitter