A Margate man has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for bilking about 50 people out of more than $1.3 million — including a nun and two priests.

Adriano Sotomayor, 55, is “a ruthless con man” who — after his scheme caused at least one person to commit suicide — continued to defraud the man’s widow, even after his arrest on the charges, according to the federal sentencing memorandum submitted at his sentencing Thursday.

“He not only took my money but he wanted to drive me to despair,” one of the priests, identified only as “Father D,” said in a statement submitted to the court. “Adriano Sotomayor did more than deprive me of my money, he tried to deprive me of my very will to live.”

Sotomayor’s schemes were apparently used to feed a gambling habit that included about $1.6 million in chip buy-ins at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino alone in 2010, records shows. IRS records also show he reported no source of income.

He pleaded guilty to the charges in February — the day before his trial was to begin.

Sotomayor admitted that, posing as “Father Samuel Alvarado” of Atlantic City, he told an elderly nun in Puerto Rico with the Dominican Sisters of Our Lady of Fatima that a parishioner died and left her an estate worth $2.1 million. The name of the fake parishioner was actually that of a real victim of one of Sotomayor’s earlier crimes, for which he was convicted, the sentencing memo states.

The nun wired about $255,000 for taxes and fees to various Atlantic County locations, including Trump Plaza, Showboat Casino Hotel, Bally’s Atlantic City and the Walmart in Mays Landing.

Eventually, Sotomayor told her of legal problems that had arisen that required more money. When others sent money on her behalf, they became targets as well.

Two priests in Puerto Rico were also targeted, sending money for taxes and fees that Sotomayor — under different guises — said were needed to obtain similar inheritances.

In the beginning, he would pick up the wire transfers himself — even using his own name and birth date — but later used aliases, and even had several other people pick up the transfers as favors to Sotomayor. They were not co-conspirators, according to the charges.

The scheme began in May 2009, four months after Sotomayor had been released from state prison for his second fraud conviction.

He was indicted in November, then fled authorities and continued his schemes until Feb. 27 of this year, when he was arrested in Las Vegas.

Many victims lost their life savings and suffered psychological trauma, the federal attorneys said. In addition to one known suicide, at least one other victim tried to take his or her own life.

One couple, identified as C.T. and J.F. in court documents, knew Sotomayor as “Adrian Rodriguez” and lost as much as $300,000 in the scheme. As a result, J.F. took his own life. Once jailed, Sotomayor had C.T. put on his call list as a “sibling” and continued to defraud the widow of more than $8,000, pretending to be a man trying to help “Rodriguez,” who he said was “taking the fall” for other members of the fake company, according to court documents.

The nun originally targeted was removed from her position as the head of her order and was investigated. She now lives largely in seclusion. The second priest, “Father R,” had to resign from his parish and was sued civilly by a parishioner who lent him money to send to Sotomayor.

In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge Eduardo C. Robreno ordered Sotomayor to pay restitution in the amount of $1,506,533. He will have three years of supervision upon his release from prison.

Contact Lynda Cohen:


@LyndaCohen on Twitter

Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.