Floyd Jay Mann, a 56-year-old from Puyallup, Washington, was sentenced to 10 years in jail Tuesday, a term he began immediately after the hearing at the U.S. District Court in Anchorage.
Judge Timothy Burgess handed down the sentence, which was above the guideline range. Two U.S. Marshals escorted Mann from the courtroom on Burgess' order that he remand to custody.
"I think the only way to ensure he doesn't commit this crime again in the future is to ensure that he can't," said Burgess, concluding lengthy remarks that held Mann and his clever but cruel scheme in low regard.
The defense had argued that Mann's addiction to opiates, his use of up to nine 30 milligram oxycodone tablets a day over many years, was the driving force behind his scam. Burgess didn't buy it.
Mann's scheme, perpetrated over six years and involving some 15 victims, was "too sophisticated, devious, and calculated" to blame on drugs.
"The idea that he was drug-addled to the point that he didn't know what he was doing doesn't hold up," said the judge. "I've been doing this for a while and haven't seen anybody come up such an elaborate, and yet preposterous" scam.
Mann, he said, was a "dogged, determined charlatan" who had "permanently damaged, emotionally and financially," more than a dozen people, "all to feed Mr. Mann and his desires."
"To say this case is serious is an understatement."
The sentencing hearing began Monday. Mann looked well, dressed in a gray sport coat with a shirt and tie and fresh haircut. But his gaze rarely lifted from the table as several victims explained how they had come to believe his sordid tale, and how they have suffered since.
"We were all fearful of losing everything we had invested up to that point," one woman explained. "It gets kind of sick, you know, you can't go on forever, but you can't quit. You're still thinking to yourself: is it really true? You live with this man in your pocket, in your heart, every waking moment … always thinking, what is Jay going to need?"
Victims, in written testimony or delivered on the stand, said Jay Mann had shaken their belief in humanity and left several of them destitute. One woman expressed a profound embarrassment she has felt in Dillingham where many have asked, "How could you not know?"
Jay Mann met John and Clara "Tookie" Wren in Puyallup in 2011. He moved in just a few doors down, and one day offered to help fix the radiator in Tookie's car for free.
"He said, 'I can fix that, it's a neighborly thing to do,' " she recounted.
Soon the Wrens, who are siblings, became very close with the Manns, acting as grandparents to their children, and John a "father figure" to Jay. Tookie would take soup and fresh baked bread over, "because they were family."
The topic of Jay's missing teeth came up once, and he said he had cancer and the teeth had been removed in an operation. Then he began concocting a story about having taken a drug called Levaquin, which he claimed was manufactured by Pfizer, and that the drug had caused his cancer. He was only supposed to have been prescribed it for "a short time, but he was prescribed it for a long time," and a lawsuit was close to settling.
"He brought over all this paperwork, and it looked official," Tookie said. There were just a few more medical tests to get done, which he was running out of money to pay for.
There would be money involved. So much, he told the Wrens, that he was nervous about leaving it all to his children. If the Wrens would help fund the remaining tests, he would split the proceeds with them.
For that next six months, the God-fearing Wrens prayed over Jay Mann and began giving him what money they could scrape together. Tookie was receiving $600 a month in Social Security, her only source of income.
"First I paid my tithe, then maybe $100 for groceries, and the rest went to Jay," she said.
The Wrens moved from Dillingham to Washington to be closer to medical care. John had been diagnosed with colon cancer, and with the proceeds from Mann's lawsuit, Tookie and John were planning to go to a cancer treatment center in Mexico. Jay said he would go, too.
Pretty soon the Wrens had run out of money, and called a dear friend from Dillingham for some financial help. This person quickly sent money to the Wrens to help them pay their basic bills, and the connection was made. Jay Mann "struck gold," as Judge Burgess put it.
The money flowed in, the story grew more intriguing, and Mann dangled the payout just hours or days in front of his victims. Even as their investments grew and losses mounted, this group of good and decent people kept asking God to save the life of their friend Jay.
"They were actually praying for him, all the while he was preying on them," said assistant U.S. attorney Aunnie Steward, who prosecuted the case.
Mann was "ruthless" as he watched John and Tookie lose their home, then John lose his life to cancer, and never slowed down his scam. He demanded deliveries of money every day, and when suspicions were raised by his bank, the victims dropped off bags of cash in his car instead. Those came in once or twice a day, and after the Wrens lost their home and moved in with family in nearby Auburn, the deliveries required a 15 mile trip. Soon the car gave out, and there was no money for repairs.
Peter DiMaggio was linked in early on and replaced the Wrens as Mann's primary contact. Mann and DiMaggio exchanged about 30,000 text messages and phone calls over five years.
In 2015, believing the payout was close, DiMaggio came down from his Mat-Su home to help see it through. He stayed at the same Auburn home as the Wrens, as the fictitious lawsuit was just a week away from wrapping up.
Mann cooked up a "gag order" and penalties if anyone other than DiMaggio contacted him or tried to look into the case. Supposedly Pfizer and some judges and other folks in Texas wanted Mann dead, and were not happy with the financial support he was being given to keep him alive.
Before they had moved from Puyallup, the Wrens had been fined $2,000 "four or five" times just for "seeing him down the street," Tookie told the court. "We would have to call Peter and tell him we wanted to go to the store. Then Peter would call Jay and make sure he was inside. Then before we came home from the store, we'd have to call again to make sure it was safe."
DiMaggio lost his home, too. He took up permanent residence in the same house the Wrens were living in. The owner testified that her husband did not believe the scam and had a bad heart; he died in 2016. "We had a lot of stress at that time," she told the court, tears coming down her face.
From 2012 through 2015, they made payments nearly every day, funneling money wire transferred from Dillingham to bags of cash left in Mann's car. The lawsuit was going to be paid out "every day, every day, every day, but it was always something else that came up," Tookie testified.
Did she ever doubt the legitimacy of what was going on, asked Steward?
"No, because Jay was our friend. And friends are honest with each other."
Their friend Jay Mann was living a far different life than he portrayed to his victims. They believed that he was constantly in and out of the hospital, either for surgeries or blood tests or other complications. Once he claimed to need a second liver transplant after the first one didn't take. The victims quickly pooled money together for that expensive procedure. The texts came in, and occasionally phone calls from phony judges, FBI agents, lawyers, and others. Mann often pretended to be his own daughter, expressing through texts the urgency of the medical treatments underway.
In reality, he spent nearly every night for four years at one of a couple of casinos around Fife. Slots were his game, and the best investigators were able to tell, he spent most of the night glued to just a machine or two.
"The employees told us he was in there all the time," testified Patrick Matthews, a special agent with the IRS.
A few of the 188 voicemails he left for DiMaggio were played in court. On some, left around daybreak, a very groggy Jay Mann demanded that the group get the day's money together immediately, and that he would probably lay down for a few hours, except that he was afraid that if he slept he might never wake up.
Over his five-year spree, Mann collected more than $1 million in winnings from the casinos. Taking house odds into account, the government believes slot machines are where most of the nearly $3 million he collected from his victims — plus his winnings — went. The prosecutor also estimated that Mann might've spent half a million on illicit oxycodone over that same period.
Meanwhile his victims lost homes, businesses, jobs, life savings, and even inheritance money. John Wren, unable to pay for his cancer treatment, lost his life. One couple was reduced to sitting around a small stove in their home through the winter, grateful for scraps of pallet wood they could collect from local stores in Dillingham. All other utilities had been turned off.
Authorities eventually caught on, though exactly how and when has not been officially disclosed. It might have started with an email Dillingham police received in 2014 from a person close to the victims who had just left town. It very specifically detailed what was happening. Realizing any criminal charges would likely fall under federal jurisdiction, the Dillingham Police Department contacted agents with the FBI. Investigators with the Social Security Administration, IRS and FBI began putting a case together through 2015. How, they wondered, could the Manns be collecting tens of thousands of dollars in needs-based Social Security payments and afford to gamble this much?
The noose was tightening, and eventually the Manns' Puyallup home was raided in the spring of 2016. The evidence was taken to a grand jury, which handed down indictments on 11 counts of wire fraud and eight counts of money laundering.
The Department of Justice announced the indictments on Sept. 8, 2016, and both Jay and his wife Cheryl Mann were arrested, then quickly released on bail. She eventually pleaded guilty to Social Security fraud and a federal judge in Washington sentenced her to three years of probation.
In July, 2017, Jay Mann pleaded guilty too. He sought no deal or arrangement in the case. His attorney, assistant federal defender Jaime McGrady, was successful in keeping Mann out of custody until Tuesday, but otherwise gained little ground.
McGrady called one witness at sentencing, a local substance abuse counselor in Anchorage. She intended to establish that her client's actions were attributed to an opiate addiction that began after he was over-prescribed pain pills following an injury. But the testimony of her "expert" witness, who had a hard time recalling the address where he worked, fell apart when he cited a devastatingly low rate of addiction recovery, and had no idea what the going rate on the street was for an oxycodone pill.
At the end of day one, Judge Burgess signaled he might choose to sentence Mann beyond the guideline range of 78 to 97 months in jail.
On day two, victim impact statements were read into the record. Burgess heard how some felt "abused, abandoned by society" and that it was too late to start over from their losses. How Mann had accidentally tapped into the "Dillingham mentality, where people rely on each other and help each other no matter what." That the situation had escalated to absurdity, but that they were in over their heads and didn't know a way out. That a three-to-one return on their investment was always just a day or two away.
Steward and McGrady made their final arguments, with the government recommending a stiff penalty for the ruthless fraudster. McGrady said "drugs change people," and now that he is clean, Mann will have no motivation to scam again.
Burgess made the rare move of handing down a sentence above the guidelines, sending "Mann to 10 in the can," as one agent quipped after the hearing. He was ordered to remand immediately and will be transported to the medium-security federal penitentiary in Sheridan, Oregon.
When he is released, Mann, who will be in his mid-60s, is expected to begin working to repay $2,682,000 in restitution.
This story was republished with permission from KDLG in Dillingham.