Local News

Antiques dealer sentenced to prison in pyramid scheme

Posted August 13, 2008 12:32 p.m. EDT
Updated August 13, 2008 10:07 p.m. EDT

— The former owner of an antiques store in Raleigh's Five Points neighborhood was sentenced Wednesday to almost 10 years in federal prison for bilking dozens of people out of an estimated $2.5 million.

Patricia Jacoby pleaded guilty in March to wire fraud, and she was sentenced to 115 months in prison and was ordered to pay about $1.6 million in restitution to investors whom she scammed.

Between February 2006 and June 2007, Jacoby, who owned the since-closed POSH! Fine Arts and Antiques, lied to investors, telling them she purchased estate lots of antiques to resell them at profit and promising a 22 percent return on their investments within 30 days.

Lorraine Buccellato of Cary said she lost $20,000 in the scheme. She rebuked Jacoby in federal court Wednesday during the sentencing hearing, calling her "an incredibly selfish woman" who caused "indescribable" pain to her and others.

Buccellato later said she was glad Jacoby is off the streets but said the prison sentence wasn't harsh enough.

"I honestly feel that she needed to be away from society," she said. "It's not even the money now so much to me. It was seeing the fact that this has come to an end."

Prosecutors are still working to find any business assets that could be sold to help pay back victims. Eighty-eight of the 118 victims in the scam haven't gotten any of their money back, authorities said, and Buccellato said she doesn't expect to ever see the money she lost.

"I've learned a valuable lesson for $20,000," she said.

Jacoby wept in court as she listened to Buccellato and to letters written by other victims – nine people sent letters to the court describing the impact of the scheme on their lives. She said the episode caused her "untold sadness, remorse and terrible guilt."

Buccellato remained skeptical. "Remorse? I don't believe it. I don't believe it," she said.

Jacoby requested to serve her sentence at the federal women's prison at Alderson, W.Va., the same prison that once house former state Agriculture Secretary Meg Scott Phipps and domestic style icon Martha Stewart. She also asked that she be able to continue psychiatric therapy and drug treatment in prison.

Jacoby was previously convicted in two other schemes.

She spent a year and a half in prison for bilking investors in an art scheme after a 2000 conviction in Mecklenburg County. In 2006, she pleaded guilty in Wake County to similar charges and paid $56,000 in restitution to victims.

Investigators said she used money raised from investors in the latest scam to repay previous victims, noting the antiques investment scheme was in the works as soon as Jacoby completed her sentence in the earlier Wake County case.