In the end, it may have been the words of his victims themselves that earned Keenan Alexander Gracey a jail term that was more than two years longer than prosecutors had sought.
Gracey, a former Newcastle man, was sentenced Friday to 15 years for an elaborate stock scheme in which he bilked 107 victims out of $6.1 million in Washington and California between 2016 and 2018.
Gracey reaped those millions impersonating an Oxford-educated British billionaire with an inside track on lucrative “pre-IPO” stock deals. Prosecutors and Gracey’s defense attorney had earlier agreed to recommend a sentence of 153 months plus three years of supervised release.
But at the conclusion of Friday’s emotional hearing, after hearing from several victims who were in court to confront the 28-year-old athlete-turned-con-man, U.S. Chief District Judge Ricardo Martinez gave Gracey the longer sentence, in part to reflect the damage his elaborate con inflicted.
“The money you spent on your lavish lifestyle was to ensure that our son would be taken care of,” said a middle-aged woman who’d entrusted Gracey with funds saved to care for her disabled son. “This was supposed to provide peace for my family. That peace has been replaced with fear.”
Another victim, who told the court he’d treated Gracey like his “adoptive son,” said Gracey had taken tens of thousands of dollars from his entire family, including the victim’s mother. “Now she got nothing, she’s got no idea what she’s going to do. She’s 62.”
“I look at him and I see the textbook definition of a sociopath,” said a third victim. “A man with no remorse and no regret for the destruction that he has wrought or the things that he has done.”
Gracey began his scams in 2016 by selling non-existent shares in private companies that, he told victims, would skyrocket in value once the companies went public, according to federal prosecutors, securities officials, and the FBI.
Prosecutors say Gracey preyed on his victims’ financial anxieties and lack of expertise, promising them fifty-fold returns of their investments, and encouraging them to bring in their friends and families.
Gracey “knew precisely the wreckage that was going to follow his actions,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Wilkinson told the court Friday. “He knew because he sat in their living rooms when he stole from them. He knew because he invited one victim, a young mother, over to his house on Mother’s Day with her seven-month-old child to take the last of her savings.”
Several victims, their voices taut with anguish, talked about the damage done to family and friends they’d unwittingly recruited for Gracey.
“There are people in this room whom I love who will never speak to me,” said one victim. “I got my family involved, I got friends involved.” Turning to Gracey, he said, “You had me to the point of planning my suicide. Not thinking… planning!”
Gracey apologized to the victims during the hearing and said he recognized the seriousness of his crimes, which he blamed in part on alcohol and on an ego-driven, immoral persona that he said had taken over his life. “It just completely robs the being that you are…[and] creates something else within you,” he said. “You are a slave to it, if you are not strong enough to push back against that.”
Martinez did not appear persuaded by Gracey’s explanations. “He knew what he was doing the entire time,” said Martinez, before announcing the longer sentence. “You stole much more than money. You stole their trust. You stole their futures. You changed forever their children’s futures. All for what? To feed an outsized ego.”