Federal investigators in Arkansas are reviewing the police bureau's relationship with Michael Vincent Fortino, a prominent motivational speaker who was sentenced Thursday by a federal judge in Little Rock to 135 months in prison and 20 years' supervised release.
Pittsburgh police Cmdr. Thomas Stangrecki said the Witness Protection program obtained housing vouchers, through the city and Allegheny County housing authorities, to help families in the program find suitable housing.
"In this case the Witness Protection Program used an approved housing list which listed properties in Allegheny County," Stangrecki said, noting that the list included the Michael Mann Agency, a real estate firm owned by Fortino. TRIBUNE-REVIEW
A judge has ordered a new sentencing hearing on child porn charges for a motivational speaker from Pittsburgh after confirming that letters of support sent on his behalf were fakes.
Last week U.S. District Judge Jimm L. Hendren sentenced Michael Fortino to 11 years in prison, the minimum for Mr. Fortino's Feb. 26 guilty plea to transporting child pornography across state lines. Judge Hendren said yesterday he was influenced by letters urging leniency for Mr. Fortino. At the new hearing, Mr. Fortino, 47, could face 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and lifetime supervision. Judge Hendren had fined Mr. Fortino $10,000 and ordered 20 years of supervised release.
"I think it was done at the behest and obviously with the knowledge of Mr. Fortino," Judge Hendren said. "A court must be able to sentence a person based on accurate information."
One fake letter was purportedly written by the father of a girl who had been secretly taped, prosecutors said.
The letter said the family had forgiven Mr. Fortino, that they were praying for him and that the incident was isolated and hadn't "placed the family in harm's way," Fayetteville police Det. Mike Parks said.
Judge Hendren has not set a date for the new sentencing hearing. Mr. Fortino remains in jail.
Authorities looked into the letters after Candis Robinette of Jonesboro, who has a young daughter with Mr. Fortino, called prosecutors to ask about the outcome of the sentencing. Prosecutors were surprised when she expressed disappointment that the sentence was not harsher because they believed she had written a two-page letter asking for leniency.
Ms. Robinette testified yesterday she didn't write the letter, which misspelled her name and gave the wrong birth date of the child. Ms. Robinette, who was five months pregnant when Mr. Fortino was arrested Nov. 30, 2005, weeks after a Fayetteville speaking engagement, said Mr. Fortino told her he'd broken up with his longtime girlfriend, that he'd never been married and lived on a yacht on Lake Erie. Mr. Fortino lived with his family in Pittsburgh.
The woman found out Mr. Fortino was already married the day after he was arrested.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh police acknowledged this week that Mr. Fortino owned properties that were used by the city's witness protection program. Police documents show Mr. Fortino's involvement in the program began in July, nearly two years after his arrest, and that two of his properties were used by witnesses in the program.
Pittsburgh police Cmdr. Thomas Stangrecki said he did not know if a background check on Mr. Fortino's real estate business, the Michael Mann Agency, was conducted before its use in the program. Federal authorities in Arkansas said they were looking into the matter.