Former Tucsonan tells judge surgery painkillers drove him to $33M fraud

Tuesday, 05 December 2017, 07:05:51 AM. Courtland Gettel already was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison in California.

A former Tucson resident told a federal judge that pain killers during surgery set him on the path to a $33 million real estate fraud scheme. 

An IV "drip" during kidney surgery ended 18 years of sobriety and set in motion a "dark time" in which he made "every bad decision possible," Courtland Gettel told U.S. District Court Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson during a sentencing hearing Monday in Tucson. 

Gettel, 43, apologized to the court and to "everybody involved in this."

Gettel pleaded guilty in May 2016 to two counts of money laundering conspiracy in connection with tens of millions of dollars he and Tucson lawyer Jeffrey Greenberg, 67, obtained from a real estate financing firm in 2013. Rather than buy and refinance properties as they agreed to do, they filed false invoices and skimmed profit from asset sales to obtain $33 million for their own benefit. 

Federal prosecutor Mike Jette told Jorgenson at Monday's hearing about $20 million was recovered. Jorgenson, as well as a federal judge in California, ordered Gettel and Greenberg to pay $12 million in restitution to the real estate financing company.

Jorgenson sentenced Gettel to 46 months in prison for each of the two counts of money laundering conspiracy. The sentences will run at the same time as the 11-year sentence Gettel received in October after pleading guilty to a federal wire-fraud charge in a separate fraud scheme in California. He will serve his sentences in a federal prison in San Diego. 

Greenberg was sentenced in October to nearly 7 years in prison for his role in the California and Tucson cases. 

As part of the Tucson scheme, Gettel funneled millions of dollars through Greenberg's attorney-trust bank accounts. The pair then created hundreds of corporations and limited liability companies to hide assets and disguise who participated in the transactions, prosecutors said. 

Gettel grew up in Tucson and played tennis competitively before attending the University of Arizona, defense lawyer Louis Fidel wrote in a Nov. 30 sentencing memorandum. Gettel has a "long-standing problem with drug abuse," but has no criminal history other than the fraud schemes. 

At Fidel's suggestion, Jorgenson recommended Gettel complete a drug abuse program while in prison. 

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