'Star Trek' medical faker pleads guilty to $25 million scam
(c) 2013, Bloomberg News.
NEW YORK — An Illinois man who persuaded a company to finance a nonexistent telemedicine computer tablet named after the physician on the original "Star Trek" television show admitted to a $25 million fraud scheme.
Howard Leventhal, 56, pleaded guilty Monday before U.S. District Justice Brian Cogan in Brooklyn, N.Y., to wire fraud for falsely claiming that his company, Neovision, had a contract with the Canadian department of health. Leventhal, of Long Grove, Ill., faces as long as 22 years in prison at his sentencing, according to a statement from the office of Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.
Leventhal told investors his company had agreements to provide Canada with a telemedicine device named after Leonard McCoy, the starship doctor portrayed by DeForest Kelley, prosecutors said. He used the fake pacts to get Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Paragon Financial Group Inc. to give him $800,000 in exchange for the right to collect money he said the Canadian government owed him, according to the U.S.
"Within this alternate reality, Leventhal marketed nonexistent technology, fabricated an online presence and impersonated a government official, all to defraud investors out of very real money," Lynch said. "His actions were the stuff of fantasy and science fiction, valid only in another dimension."
Leventhal also pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft for stealing the persona of former Canadian Deputy Minister of Health Glenda Yeates, a charge that carries a mandatory two-year prison term.
Prosecutors said in court filings that Leventhal told Paragon executives Health Canada owed him as much as $4 million and the agency had agreed to purchase his tablet.
After that meeting, Leventhal sent Paragon officials what he said was a contract between Neovision and the Canadian government, with a forged signature by Yeates for C$8.4 million ($8.2 million), according to a criminal complaint.
Leventhal also used the fake agreement to solicit more than $25 million from other potential investors, including an undercover law enforcement agent who was posing as a "high net worth individual," prosecutors said.
Now a franchise of Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures, "Star Trek" began as a three-year NBC television series about the crew of the interstellar spaceship USS Enterprise in the 23rd century. It has since spun off four more television series and a dozen feature films. One gadget seen on the show was a "medical tricorder," a handheld device used as a diagnostic tool.