HAMMOND | An Illinois man will have 18 months in federal prison to think about his financial betrayal of region business owners who had tried to help him, a judge concluded Friday.
U.S. District Court Judge Philip Simon sentenced Danilo Danti, 60, of Lake Forest, also ordered Danti to pay $227,374.28 in restitution to the owners of a Schererville appliance store, Maruszczak Appliance.
Danti pleaded guilty in August to a federal charge of transporting more than 100 stolen household appliances across state lines for his own profit between April and July 2011, Hammond federal court records state.
At Friday's hearing, Danti admitted he took advantage of company owners Douglas and Pamela Maruszczak after the couple had taken Danti in and given him a job at the company after the defendant fell on bad financial times.
"I want to apologize to two of the nicest people in the world," Danti said Friday, pointing from his defendant's seat out into the courtroom gallery where the Maruszczaks were watching the proceedings.
Danti and his defense attorney had argued he deserved some leniency in sentencing because he was taking responsibility for his crimes. He also asked for probation, noting several recent heart and bowel surgeries and general poor health.
But federal prosecutor Randall Stewart noted the financial devastation the Maruszczaks' felt because of Danti's crimes — and that the defendant had severely betrayed the victims' trust.
"This was a loss going into six figures," Stewart said. "A message needs to be sent that when you do that kind of theft, you will go to prison."
Simon agreed, calling Danti's use of "bogus accounts, fictional people and dummy invoices" to further his illegal dealings "deplorable."
Simon said it took two years for the victims to climb out of the financial hole Danti created for them.
"There is no conceivable way I could give you a sentence of probation in this case," Simon told Danti.
Danti has until March 10 to report to a yet undisclosed federal prison system to begin his sentence.
Douglas Maruszczak said Friday he was satisfied with the sentence.
"He was a friend," Maruszczak said. "It was just a big betrayal. I feel bad for him (for health reasons), but we're the ones who took the brunt of the financial hit."