Henry Meyer collected millions of dollars from his parents and their friends, promising an investment windfall that would transform their lives in retirement.
And then he blew it — racking up big bills at high-end clothing stores, hotels, restaurants and a dermatologist while pretending to be a “wheeler and dealer.”
Finally, after squandering nearly $7 million, Meyer faced sentencing Wednesday as “one of the most brazen con men” to be prosecuted in Chicago. And that’s where, in front of a couple he took for $2.6 million, he insisted he had a plan to pay them back.
“My goal is to work in corporate finance,” Meyer said.
U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle said that’s not happening.
Instead, the judge sentenced Meyer to 69 months in prison at the end of a bizarre hearing that was nearly scuttled when Meyer initially refused to come to court from the Metropolitan Correctional Center. The judge ordered U.S. marshals to bring Meyer over.
Norgle also shot down a bid by Meyer to put off the hearing after Meyer fired three attorneys — he’s had eight — in what increasingly appeared to be a delay tactic. It turned out Meyer’s parents even helped pay his legal bills after he swindled them out of $1.2 million.
Instead, Meyer spent Wednesday afternoon representing himself and engaging in a rambling back-and-forth with Norgle. He mostly offered platitudes, saying, “There’s no malice in my heart,” “I’m very sorry,” and “I always believed in my strategy.”
“I am not a con man,” Meyer said.
But Norgle eventually replied, “You’re getting yourself deeper and deeper. Your nose is getting longer as we proceed.”
Meyer did convince the judge to give him a slightly lighter sentence than prosecutors sought. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sunil Harjani wanted Norgle to give Meyer, 47, at least 70 months in prison. On top of his investment scam, authorities discovered a “Battle Plan” that Meyer had drawn up as he considered fleeing the country.
“Must be prepared for blowback,” Meyer wrote on the typewritten paper.
He even laminated it.
Harjani said Meyer grew up in Mount Prospect but ran his scheme from Florida. He targeted his aunts, uncles, cousins, parents and their friends, promising he would put their money in a “European Derivative Investment Program.” Instead, Meyer told the judge he basically bet big on a stock market crash that never happened.
The prosecutor said Meyer also used $1.4 million to pay down his American Express bill, which was full of charges from clothiers like JoS. A. Bank and restaurants like Truluck’s Seafood Steak & Crab House and The Capital Grille. Records show he left tips worth hundreds of dollars.
When Norgle asked Meyer on Wednesday what he did with the money he was supposed to invest, Meyer just paused for a moment.
Finally he said, “It didn’t work out.”