Judge sends a serial swindler back to prison for 8 years. Steven Finkler stole from people while they worked out at the gym.

Edmund H. Mahony, Hartford Courant
·2 min read

A serial fraudster who has been locked up for most of the last quarter century was returned to prison for another eight years Wednesday for stealing the identity of an inmate he befriended during his most recent stretch in prison and using it to launch a new series of swindles.

The stiff sentence was based on the sixth fraud conviction since the middle 1990s for 59-year old Steven A. Finkler, whose last residence outside of prison was New Haven.

“Well, Mr. Finkler, I can’t say I’m pleased to see you back hear again,” said U.S. District Stefan R. Underhill, who sent Finkler away for 5 years in 2014. “I’m very frustrated with you. You are a bad person.”

Underhill had sentenced Finkler to 5-years in 2014 for, among other things, cashing and spending a counterfeit check for more than $6,000 that Finkler claimed had been issued to him by a Rhode Island prison as a refund of balance in his commissary account. The prison actually had sent Finkler a commissary check, but in the amount of $26.

On Wednesday, Finkler was sentenced for - among other things - a scam that combined hi-tech credit card fraud with more traditional theft.

While in prison for a probation violation in 2018, federal prosecutors said Finkler befriended an inmate and fellow fraudster identified in court records as G.T. Finkler convinced G.T. that he was a lawyer who could counsel G.T. on the inevitable credit problems he would face upon release. In return, G.T. handed Finkler his personal identifying information.

Upon his release, Finkler opened accounts in G.T.’s name with companies that provide mobile phone credit card processing services. Finkler also bought a membership for G.T. in a company that operated gyms around the state. Entering the gyms as G.T., Finkler broke into lockers and processed credit card cash advances running from about $1,000 to $5,000 while the unsuspecting card holders were exercising.

Finkler stole at last $145,000 through the gym scam and other credit card frauds, federal prosecutors said. Underhill said Finkler spent the money on high-end vacations in spots like The Hamptons and on jewelry, such as the $2,900 Cartier 18-karat ring found in his girlfriend’s possession. Police found him hiding in her attic when they arrested him.

Finkler told the court that he has “hit rock bottom” and is “determined” to change his ways, which is what he said the last time he was sentenced.

Underhill, who can usually find some reason for optimism in those who appear before him, found none in Finkler.

“You have for all of our adult life engaged in one fraud after another,” Underhill said. “We’ve got to impose a long sentence that will protect the public.”