He bought porn with $1.3 million in startup funds, feds say. Now he’s going to prison

·3 min read

A 48-year-old man accused of buying hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of online porn using a Virginia couple’s investment money has been sentenced to prison.

Manish Singh, of Maryland, was ordered to spend three years and four months in prison after he pleaded guilty to wire fraud and identity theft charges earlier this year, prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia said Friday in a news release.

A judge also ordered Singh to pay $1.26 million in restitution and give up his Lexus SUV.

Singh received the $1.26 million from a couple looking to to use his contacts in the fashion industry to start a high-end fabric company, prosecutors said. Instead, Singh is accused of using more than $900,000 of the startup funds to tip performers on a livestreaming cam girl website.

Defense attorneys appointed to represent Singh declined to comment in a statement to McClatchy News on Monday.

In court documents, his lawyers asked for a prison sentence of no more than two years, saying he had no prior criminal convictions and has been described as “kind, empathetic, professional, and principled.”

Singh also wrote in a letter to the court that he could not “fully express” how sorry he was and that he never intended to deceive the couple, who he described as longtime friends.

“Even though I always told myself that I would turn things around any day now, and that I could recover the money I had misspent, and make the business succeed, I was in anguish during this time period,” Singh said, adding that he was “full of guilt” and “humiliation.”

He also said paying the couple back was his priority.

“I deeply regret what I did to my friend, a person whose friendship I treasured,” Singh said.

According to the grand jury’s indictment, the alleged fraud began in 2016, when Singh partnered with the couple to create Sanaa Home and Lifestyle. The company would be bank-rolled by the couple while Singh provided his expertise and contacts, prosecutors said.

Singh spent the next two years doctoring expense sheets and telling the couple any returns on their investment were being used to pay for new fabric orders, the indictment states.

The money, meanwhile, was put toward more than 1,300 transactions on an adult entertainment website called “myfreecams,” prosecutors said. Singh also reportedly used it to buy a Lexus and pay his rent.

Singh never showed for the first day of his trial in October because of a brief hospitalization, court documents show. It was reset for May, and he pleaded guilty on the third day.

According to prosecutors’ sentencing documents, Singh waited to accept responsibility “until the very close of his trial, and then only because he could not bear to have his private text messages with his favorite ‘performer’ made public.”

Before Singh’s guilty plea, a forensic accountant with the FBI showed “at least part of every payment he received from the victims” was spent on “myfreecams,” prosecutors said.

They also said if the final witness — an FBI agent — had been able to testify, he would have shown that Singh used a portion of the investment money to pay his parents back for credit card charges on the same adult entertainment website.

As a result, the government requested a lengthier prison sentence.

“The defendant does not appear to have been actively seeking to defraud anybody — the opportunity to defraud fell into his lap, so to speak, and he exploited it,” prosecutors said. “But once he decided to exploit the victims’ trust, he did so with abandon.”

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