A federal judge in a Pensacola court has sentenced three men to prison for their role in promoting an expansive tax and debt-elimination scheme, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday.

The sentences were the result of a month-long federal trial in March of several people linked to schemes involving Pinnacle Quest International, which served as an ”umbrella company for numerous vendors of tax and credit card elimination scams,” according to a Justice Department press release.

A judge sentenced two found guilty at trial: Eugene Casternovia to 7 years in prison, Arthur Merino to 3 years and 4 months in prison. A third man, Mark Lyon, who cooperated with the government and testified at trial, was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Four others convicted in the case received prison time ranging from 5 to 12 years, while three others are to be sentenced in October.

Federal authorities say Casternovia, Merino, Lyon and others sold “bogus theories and strategies for tax evasion” and “fraudulent schemes for eliminating credit card debt.” They charged customers thousands for useless debt-elimination plans that often led their clients into lawsuits and bankruptcy.

You May Also Like

Powerful Tampa Bay interests campaign for local light rail funding: News. Politics. Media

With plans for a federally funded high-speed rail line linking Tampa and Orlando on the fast track, some of the Tampa Bay area's most powerful political and business interests are pushing to secure funding for a connecting light rail system. But with local and state governments facing continued budget deficits across the board, those hopes rest on Hillsborough County citizens footing the bill. That means legions of taxpayers and anti-tax groups need convincing.