A California movie producer convicted of defrauding investors of over $26 million was sentenced to eight years in prison Wednesday by a judge who said his crimes needed to be punished severely.
David Bergstein, 55, of Hidden Hills, California, also was ordered to pay a $250,000 fine and forfeit any proceeds of his crimes.
U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel in Manhattan said he wanted to send a message that anyone convicted of a similar crime will pay a steep price.
Bergstein produced the 2004 romantic comedy Laws of Attraction with Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore.
He cried as he requested leniency, saying he wanted to be reunited with his wife and sons as soon as possible.
Castel said the sentence was less than federal sentencing guidelines called for.
Bergstein, who has been incarcerated since his March conviction, asked Castel to sentence him based on his “whole life” and not just the last decade.
In a release, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said Bergstein, who testified at trial, told a story that was full of holes.
“As a Hollywood film producer and entrepreneur, David Bergstein is versed in common themes for fictional writing. Deception, truth, and lies fit the narrative for Bergstein’s real life scheme to bilk investors of more than $26 million,” Berman said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Imperatore told the judge that Bergstein engaged in his scheme in 2011 and 2012 by defrauding investors in Weston Capital Asset Management, a New York-based investment adviser.
“He believes he’s above the law,” Imperatore said.
The prosecutor said Bergstein had a “profound lack of remorse” and remained defiant, bragging that his appeal would be a “slam dunk.”
In court papers, prosecutors said Bergstein spent the money he stole on himself, including for personal legal bills, credit card bills totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, lavish trips, bonsai trees and private jets.
Defense attorney Lee Ginsberg requested no more than five years in prison for his client, citing Bergstein’s generosity to others and saying he had an 11-year-old child who should grow up with his father.