Garza sentencing close at hand

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HARTFORD, CONN. — Although federal sentencing guidelines call for 63 to 78 months of imprisonment for a man accused of defrauding investors of nearly $10 million, his attorneys are asking a federal court judge to sentence him to probation.

If the court does not agree with the suggestion, Josh Garza, 33, should be sentenced to home confinement and community service, write his attorneys.

"Josh is a decent and hardworking man, with close ties to his family and community," wrote Marjorie J. Peerce, of the Philadelphia law firm, Ballard Spahr. "He has acknowledged his wrongful conduct and fully accepted responsibility."

In July 2017, Garza pleaded guilty to wire fraud "related to his role in his companies' purported generation and sale of virtual currency," stated a press release from the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Connecticut.

Garza founded the now-defunct Optima Computers in Brattleboro in 2002. Once Optima went out of business, Garza and his then-business mentor, Stuart Fraser, founded Great Auk Wireless High Speed Internet, also in Brattleboro. Garza and Fraser also founded GAW Miners and ZenMiner, bitcoin mining companies.

"During the scheme, Garza, through his companies, used money his companies had made from new ... investors to pay older ... investors," the press release stated. "The payments were money that the companies owed the older investors based on the purported mining GAW Miners and ZenMiner had done on the investors' behalf."

"Customers trusted me to steward their money and I betrayed that trust," wrote Garza in a letter to the court submitted prior to sentencing. "I was selfish and greedy and didn't exercise what I could to turn things in a different direction. What happened at GAW Miners, in every way possible, was out of character and not consistent with my prior career path. ... I am truly sorry, and while I know that words do not encompass nor do they create any level of restitution, I am truly sorry for the pain I have put so many people through. I put myself before others, I was blinded by selfishness and greed and there is really no excuse for my actions."

Garza and Fraser were also named in a civil suit filed by investors. Garza was eventually dismissed from the suit after he agreed to testify against Fraser. That case is ongoing. Most recently, Fraser's attorneys are demanding access to documents created during those meetings between Garza and a representative of the investors.

"At age 29, a few of us started GAW Miners which lasted for about 9 months," wrote Garza. "I had never been involved with cryptocurrency before, and while the company started with a legitimate purpose, it was not long before the thought of the financial freedom began and ultimately turned into greed. That greed turned in to poor personal and business purchasing decisions [including] large bonuses to myself. I began to make decisions that put my needs before our customers, like making announcements that were not true."

When the company began running out of money, he wrote, "I thought I could fix it. I started liquidating assets and putting funds back into the company. It quickly became clear that my efforts were not enough."

With the failure of the business, wrote Garza, "... many people were hurt and my family was left with nothing. ... We had significant debt and recurring payments with no more income and we finally ran out of money. My wife and I legitimately reduced the amount of meals we had per day because we wanted the food stamps we received to go towards our children. It was not long before we had to sell our home, my wife's wedding ring, most of our furniture, etc."

Garza wrote that shortly after he asked his mother for financial assistance, she died.

"It was then I finally knew I could no longer sit around feeling bad for myself and I finally knew that I needed to rebuild so I could take care of my family and to make right to all those I had not been honest with and harmed. All of this has humbled and changed me in drastic ways. The situation with GAW Miners has made me a better husband, father, friend, and employer and has allowed me to understand the consequences of my actions."

For a position of "great humility," Garza and his wife started a new company, which is not described in the letter other than as "A company that helps others and has allowed me to be in a position to begin the much needed repair for all those that were previously affected."

Perhaps most importantly, wrote Garza, the experience made him a better father. "My behavior at GAW Miners has allowed me to teach them, as ashamed as it made me, the importance of never compromising their integrity, always being honest, and admitting when we don't have the right skills or experience. But, more than anything, the effort necessary to relentlessly work hard and to make restitution to those harmed by my actions."

As part of his plea agreement, Garza read victim impact statements. "Reading people's individual stories and seeing it in their own words really breaks my heart and makes me that much more determined to make things right for them. ... The only thing I can offer is a willing attitude and heart to try and to make things right. I also know that I can not turn back time, or even expect forgiveness. If given the opportunity, I will continue to grow my company to start repaying the victims and make restitution."

Garza received a number of letters of support from friends, family members and his pastor.

"Those who have written to the Court express a man who is devoted to his wife, children, family, and their community," wrote Peerce. "We respectfully submit that the good from Josh's life, and all that he has done to repair his criminal conduct, outweighs the bad and justifies a non-incarcerative sentence."

As part of the plea agreement, wrote Peerce, Garza has agreed to give up $9,182,000, and pay pre-judgment interest in the amount of $742,774.

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or raudette@reformer.com.

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