Many people seemed surprised Monday when a 3rd District judge sentenced two Sandy men to prison.
Prosecutors had even agreed to recommend that Steven Richard Todd, 28, and Bryant R. Wilson, 31, be given probation for bilking their auto brokerage customers of more than $64,000. Defense attorneys, too, pleaded for probation for their clients.But Judge John Rokich decided the men should be punished by serving prison sentences. Both were ordered to serve concurrent sentences of one to 15 years and zero to five years for their guilty pleas to a pattern of unlawful activity and theft by deception.
Court bailiffs pulled the defendants away from their attorneys, handcuffed them and took them away as a full courtroom of spectators - most of them victims - looked on.
"Most of the victims were more concerned about getting their money back than them going to prison," said Salt Lake County deputy attorney Greg Skordas. "But he (the judge) made no bones about it and just committed them to prison. I was a bit surprised."
The judge also ordered the men to pay back the many customers who lost their money when they tried to buy and sell cars at Rocky Mountain Auto Brokers, 2900 S. State. Most of the victims do not have a lot of money.
Tiffany Catanzariti said she hopes she will eventually get some of the money she lost back but doubts she'll ever see it all.
She gave Todd her 1988 Mercury Tracer because she feared she could no longer make the payments. He promised to find someone to take over her payments, but he instead gave it to another customer as a loaner car. The car was later repossessed, and she was sued for the difference and now owes $3,600 to the bank.
Catanzariti said Todd repeatedly assured her he had found a buyer and that the payments were being made.
"I think it (the prison sentence) scared them real bad," she said. "It comes with what they did. They have to take responsibility for what happened."
Since the arrest of Todd and Wilson, South Salt Lake police detectives have been investigating another business run by the two men - Paparazzi Models modeling studio. Prosecutors plan to screen the case next week to see if the evidence warrants additional criminal charges.
Skordas said he is concerned about how the men may earn money to pay the restitution after they are released from prison. He said he hopes new victims won't be duped while the two men are raising money to pay back those customers of the auto brokerage.
Originally, 74 counts of racketeering and theft were filed between the two men.