San Jose's most notorious con man entered a guilty plea Tuesday on charges that he stole more than $200,000 from an 86-year-old woman with memory loss, who also happened to be the mother of a former cellmate.
Lawrence Maschino Jr. is likely to be sentenced on May 18 to eight years in prison, said Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Cherie Bourlard.
Maschino is in custody and represented himself in court.
"He was very articulte and appeared very nice," Bourlard said. "But he swindled people out of their money. And this has a happy ending. We were able to recover most of the money for the victim."
Maschino has a notorious record in Silicon Valley -- at least six prior convictions in Santa Clara County -- for an assortment of scams, ranging from when he posed as a Harvard-educated heart surgeon to being super chef Gordon Ramsay's assistant. Both those claims are not true.
He was sent to prison three times for those convictions, the last time was a sentence of four years.
But he was set free in the summer of 2011 and sought out a cellmate's elderly mother in the South Bay, Bourlard said. He told the woman he was her son's friend and asked for a loan so that he and her son could go into a tree-trimming service together.
Maschino went to the bank with the woman, convincing her to write him six cashier's checks totaling $204,000. Bourlard said he used some of that money to buy a Porsche, Prada sunglasses, Louis Vuitton luggage and then went gambling with thousands more at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas.
Police found him in September in Richmond, after a couple he had been trying to swindle did a Google search on his name and found unsavory stories about his past. The couple, at the time, were on their way to Paris with Maschino, supposedly in his private jet. The couple became suspicious when they discovered a bottle of Maschino's cholesterol pills came in a prison-issued bottle, prompting them to conduct the Internet search.
The couple tipped off police, and Maschino's arrest triggered a parole violation, sending him back to prison, allowing prosecutors time to complete their investigation.
Contact Lisa Fernandez at 408-432-4758 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at Twitter.com/ljfernandez.