'Star Trek' Medical Faker Pleads Guilty to $25 Million Scam
An Illinois man who persuaded a Fort Lauderdale-based company to finance a nonexistent telemedicine computer tablet named after the physician on the original "Star Trek" television show admitted to a $25 million fraud scheme.
Howard Leventhal, 56, pleaded guilty Monday before U.S. District Justice Brian M. Cogan in Brooklyn, New York, to wire fraud for falsely claiming his company, Neovision, had a contract with the Canadian health ministry, Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement. Leventhal of Long Grove, Ill., faces as long as 22 years in prison at his sentencing, scheduled for April 3, prosecutors said.
Leventhal allegedly told investors his company had agreements to provide Canada with a telemedicine device named after Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy, the starship Enterprise doctor portrayed by DeForest Kelley in the TV series and more recently by Karl Urban on the big screen. Prosecutors charged Leventhal used the fake pacts to get Paragon Financial Group Inc. to give him $800,000 in exchange for the right to collect money he said the Canadian government owed him, according to the United States.
"Within this alternate reality, Leventhal marketed nonexistent technology, fabricated an online presence and impersonated a government official, all to defraud investors out of very real money," Lynch said. "His actions were the stuff of fantasy and science fiction, valid only in another dimension."
Leventhal's attorney, Steven Y. Yurowitz of Newman & Greenberg in New York, didn't immediately return a telephone message left at his office seeking comment on the plea.
Leventhal also pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft for stealing the persona of former Canadian Deputy Minister of Health Glenda Yeates, a charge that carries a mandatory two-year prison term.
Prosecutors said in court filings that Leventhal told Paragon executives Health Canada owed him as much as $4 million and the agency had agreed to purchase his tablet called Heltheo's McCoy Home Health Tablet.
After that meeting, Leventhal sent Paragon officials what he said was a contract between Neovision and the Canadian government, with a forged signature by Yeates, for $8.2 million, according to a criminal complaint.
Leventhal also used the fake agreement to solicit more than $25 million from other potential investors, including an undercover law enforcement agent who was posing as a "high net worth individual," prosecutors said.
Now a franchise of Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures, "Star Trek" began as a three-year NBC television series about the crew of the interstellar spaceship Enterprise in the 23rd century. It has since spun off four more television series and a dozen feature films. One gadget seen on the show was a "medical tricorder," a handheld device used as a diagnostic tool.
The case is U.S. v Leventhal, 1:13-cr-00695, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).