I'll reserve judgement, just offer prayers for Charlie as he begins the next leg in his quite amazing life.
Ultramarathoner gets 21 months for mortgage fraud
By Tim McGlone
January 11, 2011
Ultramarathon runner Charlie Engle ran his last foot race Sunday for
at least 21 months.
U.S. District Judge Jerome B. Friedman on Monday sentenced Engle to 21
months in federal prison after a jury in the fall found Engle guilty
of 12 counts of bank, mail and wire fraud in an Eastern Shore real
Citing Engle's clean record and 18 years of sobriety and charitable
work, the judge granted his request for leniency. A federal prosecutor
walked into court seeking a prison term more than double what Engle
got, claiming his deceit even after his arrest and his perjury at
trial warranted a harsh penalty.
Afterward, Engle praised the judge, saying he knew he would receive a
"Obviously, I would prefer not to be in this situation at all," he
said. "Considering the worst possible scenario, I'm grateful."
Engle, surrounded by more than 40 friends and family members, received
hugs as he left court. The judge allowed Engle to turn himself in to a
designated federal prison by Feb. 14.
Engle, 48, of Greensboro, N.C., gained some notoriety in the past
decade for his fundraising run across the Sahara Desert and a similar
effort to run across America. He's also a motivational speaker. On
Sunday, Engle met supporters in his hometown for a 5K run.
Friends, relatives and fellow marathoners filed around 120 letters of
support with the court. Some letter writers said they hadn't even met
Engle but were inspired by his athletics and motivational speeches.
The judge cited those letters as well, saying he has never received so
many in one case. And it was also the first case the judge said he had
that went viral, with websites and blogs set up to support Engle.
Engle also gave a long speech to the judge, noting that he had been
"foolish enough to think I can change the world." While he did not
address the charges the jury convicted him of, he said at times he
"can be careless."
"I can say with confidence that I can turn negatives into positives,"
he told the judge. "I have no doubt I will make the best of this."
A jury in October found Engle guilty of 12 felonies, finding that he
bilked banks out of $150,000 in an Eastern Shore mortgage fraud
Evidence showed that Engle obtained $1.055 million from four loans,
causing $404,000 in alleged losses to the banks after Engle stopped
making payments and the homes in Cape Charles were foreclosed on.
Prosecutors have said that Engle used proceeds from the fraud to fund
his lifestyle around the time of his 4,300-mile run across the Sahara
four years ago. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Kosky said Engle needed
money for the 111-day run. The run was documented in "Running the
Sahara," narrated by film star Matt Damon.
Kosky initially pushed for a sentence between four and five years in
prison, citing bank losses of $404,000. But after hearing arguments
Monday, the judge lowered the loss amount to $265,500, which also
lowered the recommended federal guideline sentence from a maximum of
57 months to a maximum of 46 months.
Friedman then went even lower but denied Engle's request for a
sentence of probation.
"He has to be punished for what he did," Friedman said. "I believe he
knew what he was doing was wrong."
Engle argued at trial that he was duped by unscrupulous mortgage
brokers and real estate agents, some of whom he said forged his
signature and made up his inflated income numbers to get the loans.
But Kosky presented undercover tape recordings where Engle is heard
saying of mortgage fraud that "everyone was doing it." Then after
being arrested, Engle told Internal Revenue Service agents that he
knew what he did was part of the nationwide mortgage crisis that led
to the recession. Engle denies ever saying that.
Since his arrest, Engle has been a prolific writer on the Internet, at
his website, www.charlieengle.com and on Facebook, where he has just
under 5,000 friends.
"I convince myself that this is just another adventure," he wrote in a
recent blog. "But I wonder if I am delusional. Maybe I am just denying
the catastrophe that my life has become."
The judge also sentenced Engle to 100 hours of community service and
five years of probation and ordered him to repay $265,500 to the