Con man Minkow gets 5-year max for $500M fraud

By CURT ANDERSON | July 21, 2011 | 11:15 AM EDT

MIAMI (AP) — A federal judge in Miami has sentenced convicted con man Barry Minkow to the maximum five years in prison after he pleaded guilty to fraud involving homebuilder Lennar Corp.

Minkow had sought leniency at Thursday's hearing. But U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz said the scheme cost Miami-based Lennar more than $580 million in lost stock value. She also said Minkow had squandered opportunities after getting out of prison for a previous scam.

Now 45, Minkow gained fame in the 1980s for founding the ZZZZ Best carpet cleaning company in Southern California. He was a millionaire at age 21, but was convicted of luring investors with fake fire and water restoration projects.

Minkow later became a valued FBI informant helping root out fraud around the country. Then came the Lennar scam.