16 July 2013

Scripps heir gets 9 years for swindling mom, uncle

Originally Appeared in USA TODAY

 A media company heir raised in what his lawyer called a wealthy but dysfunctional family must serve nine years in prison for stealing $3.6 million from his mother and disabled uncle.

Federal prosecutors in Philadelphia said Michael Scripps spent the money on cars, jewelry and women, including strippers and porn stars.

A defense lawyer argued Monday that Scripps, 36, has since married and built a productive life and credited the turnaround to his estrangement from his family in 2006. However, U.S. District Judge Legrome Davis did not quite see it that way.

"He got caught stealing their money, so they didn't want to have anything else to do with him," Davis said.

Scripps lived in suburban Detroit, as did his mother and uncle. He has been in custody since an April trial conviction on wire fraud charges.

Melissa Scripps had agreed to let her son's college friend in suburban Philadelphia manage $9 million belonging to her and her brother, David. But Scripps and the Merill Lynch broker, Richard "Duke" Gleeson of Bryn Mawr, then colluded to misuse the funds, prosecutors said.

Melissa Scripps is an heir to the fortune of James E. Scripps, the founder of The Detroit News. She testified that she had inherited $11 million. But defense lawyer Michael Dezsi argued that her fortune was closer to $100 million. She was giving her adult son about $3,900 a month, along with a $250,000 trust fund and college tuition.

Dezsi said she had run a chaotic house when her son was growing up and was long addicted to drugs.

"My client was raised in a very chaotic, somewhat dysfunctional household," Dezsi said. "He was raised in a house where his mother asked him to buy drugs for her."

"The spending in the Scripps family was just unimaginable," the lawyer said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Terri Marinari disputed any effort to paint Scripps as a victim.

"This is real money that he put in his pocket, knowing that these two other people had no other source of income," she argued.

And the judge challenged the notion that his mother's wealth or her drug use fueled Scripps' crimes.

"There's something deeper here than a desire for money, or family circumstances," Davis said.

Scripps has been in custody since his conviction. He did not testify at trial and declined to speak to the judge Monday.

However, Dezsi said his client had the authority to use the money, and plans to appeal the conviction and sentence.

Gleeson, 38 and a married father of four, was sentenced Monday to a year in prison. A self-described gambling addict, he netted about $300,000 and pleaded guilty before trial.

The two men were also ordered to joint restitution of $3.6 million.

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