The victims of a New Jersey woman who was convicted of bilking investors of as much as $2.5 million pleaded for leniency at her sentencing hearing Monday, arguing that she was fooled by a mysterious business partner — who authorities believe may not actually exist.
Marcia Sladich, 51, of Clifton was sentenced to 70 months in prison yesterday for the three-year scheme, in which she collected money from fellow members of the local branch of Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, promising guaranteed returns from international real estate investments. The scene at the sentencing hearing was reported by The Record newspaper.
Sladich, who is a mother of four and a ticket-collector at Giants Stadium, promised investors 100% risk-free returns within a year. But, in a classic Ponzi setup, she paid out older investors as new money flowed in and even gave $100 bonuses for recruiting new investors. Sladich collected $15 million in all, and confessed that $1 million to $2.5 million had been lost, according to her July 2009 plea agreement.
She used the money to pay off her credit card and buy real estate for herself and her family in the U.S. and Brazil.
In all of this, Sladich said she was working with a “successful businesswoman” by the name of Antoinette K. Kay, according to authorities. Her firm was called Kay Services.
But here’s the twist: authorities tell us they found no evidence of anyone by that name tied to the fraud. In other words, it’s not clear that Kay is a real person.
And here’s the twist on the twist: the group of fellow parishioners pleading for leniency yesterday apparently still believe that “Kay” was the real mastermind of the scheme. That group of victims “cited [Sladich’s] good works in the community and their belief that she never intended to harm anyone but was duped by a mysterious partner who has disappeared,” according to The Record.
There was a rival group of victims at the hearing — not members of the Unification Church — who were not so forgiving. A pastor of the local Lutheran church said he took out a home equity loan of $231,000 and invested it all with Sladich. Now, he says, his family may soon be out on the street, The Record reported.