Willis, who is now in a wheelchair, was sentenced earlier this week by a federal judge in Albuquerque to two years in prison followed by three years of supervised release — despite Willis’s claims that his many health conditions couldn’t be treated in prison.
While Willis argued for house arrest, federal prosecutors argued that his “staggering history of misconduct” could only be punished adequately by time in prison — something he avoided in pleading guilty to separate fraud charges in state court.
Assistant U.S. Attorney C. Paige Messec said in court documents that Willis’ own medical records contradict many of his vague health claims, arguing that they were self diagnosed and suggested that they be taken with a “grain of salt.”
Willis was charged with two counts of wire fraud and his sentence was capped at two years in a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
He had offered Joe and Theresa Lee an opportunity to purchase a 5-percent interest in a real estate investment company for $1 million — with the understanding that he and others had also invested millions of dollars in a company that was going to invest in commercial and residential real estate.
There was an LLC, but it was used to transfer the money into Willis’s personal accounts. There were no other investors and no investments were made.
Willis spent the Lee’s money on personal living expenses, Denver Broncos season tickets and payments to a recording studio instead of investing the funds.
The Lees had wanted to convert their IRAs to Roth IRAs and Willis had been recommended to them as a financial adviser.
Willis was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge Robert G. James of the Western District of Texas, who was filling in for local judges. A hearing on restitution to the Lees hasn’t been scheduled.
According to court records, Willis settled a civil lawsuit filed by the couple by turning over a piece of property that was assessed at more than $220,000 and has paid $10,000 on a $45,000 promissory note.
Messec argued that the court should award the Lees the remaining amount — more than $700,000 — in restitution with interest.
Willis maintains that the civil settlement should be the total amount awarded to the Lees.
In court documents, Messec recounted Willis’s long history of scams, including defrauding a man by convincing him that his beloved dead dog could be cloned for $200,000.
The man paid the money to Willis, who subsequently claimed that the cloning attempt failed because the deceased dog’s DNA sample was “frazzled.”