A Huntington Woods attorney was sentenced to three years in prison Tuesday for cheating investors out of millions of dollars by pretending he was investing their money in medical marijuana when he was really blowing it on gambling.
The lawyer was hoping to get probation. Prosecutors had pushed for a 41-month sentence.
In the end, U.S. District Judge David Lawson concluded Robert Gross, 49, deserved 36 months for his crime, for which he will also pay $3.6 million in restitution to his victims under the terms of his plea deal. In December, Gross pleaded guilty to fraud in U.S. District Court, admitting he ran a years-long scheme that duped numerous investors, including several of his law practice clients.
“Bob is remorseful for the actions that put him in this place. He’s going to do everything he can to make sure that all victims are made whole,” Gross’s lawyer, Todd Flood, told the Free Press on Tuesday. “He respects the court’s decision in sentencing him underneath the guidelines, but yet imposing a prison term on him for the next 36 months.”
According to court records, Gross convinced people to give him money for investments, claiming the funds would be used for a medical marijuana business and equipment lien repayment. Instead, prosecutors said, Gross used the money to pay down gambling markers and obtain new gambling credit at a casino in Las Vegas.
Gross also created fake documents as part of the scheme, including falsely notarized documents and a false net worth statement that he understood would be used in an attempt to secure additional funds from investors.
Gross admitted that he expected to receive $2 million in compensation from the individuals for whom he was fraudulently soliciting funds.
In pushing for a prison sentence, prosecutors argued in court documents that Gross’s crime “was not a one-time lapse in judgment,” nor was it about “putting food on the table.”
“Gross’s fraud was not one of desperation. Rather, Gross lived a life with the kind of trappings of which most criminal defendants can only dream: an idyllic upbringing, successful legal practice, 2 million-dollar net worth, and supportive family. Yet Gross was willing to risk it all for the promise of a multi-million dollar payoff …,” prosecutors wrote in court documents, stressing:
“Gross made the conscious decision to lie and cheat time after time,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo. “But what makes this offense even more egregious is that Gross was not defrauding strangers on the street—he was defrauding his own clients and others who trusted him because of his status as a lawyer.”
According to court documents, Gross’s world came crashing down when he and two of his associates returned from an “illicit outing in Las Vegas and their fraud was uncovered by federal agents.”
In court documents, Gross’s attorneys described him as a good and hardworking family man with good standing in the community.
“Mr. Gross feels great embarrassment and shame for his involvement in this crime. He is acutely aware of how he betrayed people’s trust and abused his position as an attorney at law,” one of his lawyers wrote in a sentencing memo on file in U.S. District Court. “He has disappointed many who believed in him, irreparably fractured his family, and jettisoned a rewarding career that he worked hard at for many, many years.”
In seeking probation, Gross’s lawyers argued that Gross “unquestionably played a minor role. And when he was caught, he readily admitted to what he had done wrong and took full responsibility for his actions.”
Gross’s lawyers also argued that a prison term would not only prevent him from paying off his restitution during the sentence, but would also make it more difficult for him to find work after his release from prison.
The judge disagreed.
By: Tresa Baldas, Detrout Free Press