Former Carmel real estate broker Thomas J. O'Meara III was sentenced to federal prison for 6½ years Wednesday for defrauding investors in a failed luxury golf course development in Fresno.
O'Meara, 66, was taken into custody immediately after being sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh in a San Jose courtroom. A resident of Palm Desert in recent years, O'Meara had been on home detention for two years before the sentencing hearing.
He pleaded guilty in July to wire fraud and money laundering charges tied to his role in drumming up investors in the ill-fated Running Horse Golf and Country Club project.
Prosecutors alleged that he bilked more than 50 investors — many of them Central Coast residents — out of more than $16 million by failing to disclose big problems with the 450-acre development, which was to be built around a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.
The project, which was seen as being a much-needed spark for development in southwest Fresno, foundered badly. Only two golf course holes and none of the projected 780 upscale homes were built.
O'Meara formerly was president of Cypress Investment Corp. in Carmel. He teamed with Scott Webb, a Fresno real estate broker, on the Running Horse project.
By 2008, the project was in such disarray that both men lost their real estate licenses. Webb died soon after.
In sentencing papers filed before Wednesday's hearing, prosecutors asked that O'Meara spend seven years in prison, while the defense sought a three-year prison term.
The prosecution said investors persuaded by O'Meara to put money into the real estate project "suffered devastating personal consequences."
The impacts on several investors, identified only by initials, are recounted on three pages of the prosecution sentencing memo.
One man said he and his wife lost all their financial resources and had been "killed ... financially, emotionally and (in) our spirit."
A couple said they lost $200,000 they had saved for their triplets' college education. Another couple lost $267,000 and had to tap the husband's pension 12 years early.
Joyce Scampa, a Carmel real estate broker who with several relatives lost millions in the project, said afterward: "We're glad we finally got justice and that he won't be out and able to victimize anyone else."
Scampa said she was glad the judge ordered O'Meara into custody immediately. She said the defense requested two more months of freedom for O'Meara to put his affairs together.
The defense argued that O'Meara didn't mislead investors to line his own wallet, but had been wiped out financially, too, by the project's failure.
Under the plea bargain, O'Meara will be required to pay about $7 million in restitution, and he still owes federal taxes, attorney fees and other costs, the defense memo said.
The defense memo said some victims of the Running Horse meltdown overstated their losses in victim statements.
"Running Horse was a high risk investment for all those who participated," wrote defense attorney Jeane DeKelver.
Larry Parsons can be reached at 646-4379 or email@example.com.