A former Newport Beach businessman who eluded authorities for more than a dozen years before being arrested living aboard a 58-foot yacht in Malaysia was sentenced Monday to 10 years in federal prison for running an Internet company that bilked hundreds of victims out of $13 million.
James Eberhart, 73, was also ordered to pay roughly $12 million in restitution to more than 800 victims across the country.
Eberhart vanished in 1999 as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the FBI were investigating YES Entertainment Network Inc., which the Newport Beach resident had billed as an ambitious 18-channel, family oriented website that would carry various forms of entertainment programming.
Authorities said Eberhart and his associates used dozens of boiler room telemarketing firms to raise millions of dollars, most of which was wired to bank accounts he and an attorney had set up in Hong Kong and Singapore, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
Only a fraction of the money was spent on the actual Web page, which authorities said was little more than “a facade” designed to reassure investors.
After fleeing the country, Eberhart asked a Costa Rica family to legally adopt him so that he could become a Costa Rican citizens and avoid being extradited to the U.S., prosecutors said. He was 58 at the time.
In 2012, authorities said they were tipped off that he was living in Malaysia aboard a custom-built yacht, which he had occasionally entered in sailboat races.
A second defendant in the case, Eugene M. Carriere, was sentenced to three years in prison in 2007 after his arrest in Thailand, prosecutors said.
Five others, including the owners of various telemarketing firms, were also indicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.