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Fraud Victims Testify In Sentencing Of Cumberland County Businessman

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Sentencing for Cumberland businessman Anthony Allen was put off Wednesday so that victims could tell the court about how he allegedly stole millions of dollars from them.

More than 100 people filled the court to share their thoughts about Allen, who was arrested by investigators from the state Department of Insurance in October 2003 and pleaded guilty in December to 85 felony charges of obtaining property under false pretenses and embezzling.

"It has devastated me to think that I put my confidence into him and he would take my money," one woman told the judge.

State Department of Insurance officials believe Allen took advantage of hundreds of people -- mostly elderly -- and duped them out of nearly $18 million.

In court, detectives testified that Allen used the money to purchase cigars, furniture and flowers. He also spent some of the money at strip clubs, spent as much as $7,000 a month at a restaurant and spent $60,000 on a trip to Paris. Detectives also said Allen even used $100 bills as bookmarks.

"This is one of those cases that makes you wonder how anyone can be so cold and calculating," said Insurance Commissioner Jim Long.

As witnesses testified, Allen sat quietly in court and cried. Many people, however, said they had trouble believing him, especially after seeing evidence, including a photograph of him wearing a T-shirt, which read, "Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups."

"We hope that you will truly lock him up for the rest of his life and throw away the key," said Karen Thompson, also a fraud victim who invested with Allen.

Allen could receive a maximum sentence of 23,291 months. State Department of Insurance officials are hopeful that Allen will receive a significant sentence.

Prosecutors said sentencing could occur by the end of the week.