By FRED SHUSTER | City News Service
LOS ANGELES — A Santa Monica man who impersonated a Navy SEAL and a Bible scholar to con an actress and three other women he dated into investing in his sham companies was sentenced Tuesday to eight years behind bars.
Antonio Mariot Wilson, 57, who also answers to the names Dr. Tony Mariot and Brice Carrington, was additionally ordered to pay restitution of $272,000 and serve three years under supervised release after he gets out of federal prison. The judge ordered him to surrender to begin his sentence within 48 hours.
Between May 2015 and October 2018, Wilson met four women on the networking dating app Bumble Bizz and elsewhere and lured them into romantic relationships before conning them into giving him a total of $387,000 for his supposed businesses.
He has since repaid one of the women the full amount of her $75,000 “investment,” leaving $272,000 in restitution to the three remaining victims, according to Wilson’s attorney.
One of the women was actress Jenifer Lewis, whose credits include the television series “Black-ish” and the films “Beaches” and “Sister Act,” according to papers filed in Los Angeles federal court.
Lewis appeared via Zoom during the sentencing hearing to give the court a tearful victim impact statement concerning her former boyfriend, whom she described as a “predatory con artist who, during the past 25 years, destroyed the lives of countless women and men.”
Lewis said she met the so-named Brice Carrington at a branch of L.A. Fitness, where he worked as a manager.
“He meticulously researched me on the internet,” the actress said. “He used all that information on the web to … worm his way into my life with false affections. His lies had no boundaries.”
Wilson impersonated a Bible scholar and a Navy SEAL, “showing me medals and government paperwork (I later found out that) he purchased on the internet,” Lewis testified.
Eventually, she said, Wilson persuaded her to invest $50,000 in what he claimed was a “sound design” business.
“I agreed to invest, having softened only after he brought his children to my house,” Lewis said. “He used his children. Even to this day, that fact horrifies me the most.”
But, she said, “getting conned out of money, though humiliating, wasn’t the worst part — it is what he did to my soul.”
Because of Wilson’s betrayal, “not a day goes by that I feel safe,” Lewis said. “After five years I still suffer emotionally from Tony’s insane treachery. The $50,000 he stole from me does not compare to his stealing my ability to trust. His treachery caused deep depression and I was forced back into therapy.”
Lewis told the court she sued L.A. Fitness “for not doing a thorough background check” on Wilson, and settled for $13,000, which she donated to charity.
Wilson pleaded guilty last June to one federal count of wire fraud.
In a brief statement to the court, the defendant told the judge that “I’m not this guy that I’ve been painted out to be, not even close.”
Along with his prison sentence, the judge ordered Wilson not to use aliases on online platforms including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
Prosecutors said Wilson stole the victims’ money and used it to fund his own lifestyle and pay his own personal expenses, concealing the fact that he previously served a four-year term in federal prison after pleading guilty in 2009 to wire fraud and tax evasion charges stemming from a similar scheme in the Northern District of California.
In that case, in which Wilson siphoned a total of almost $4 million from victims, he falsely told investors that he was a three-time Oscar-winning sound effects designer and was well established in the entertainment industry. To support his lies, Wilson went so far as to hire a jeweler to fabricate two reproductions of Oscar statuettes, which he displayed around his home.
It was while on supervised release in the 2009 case that he began to commit the nearly identical fraud scheme for which he was sentenced Tuesday to eight years.
In a letter to the court in the current case, a victim described how Wilson “fabricated an intense love and a future together after three dates, in order to advance his calculated plans.”
The woman wrote that she will “eternally have the scar of the turmoil I underwent at the hands of Antonio Wilson. To this day, my self-worth and confidence is tainted by the burden of shame he placed on me due to his willful and planned deception.”