Virginia Beach man accused of marriage fraud scheme pleads guilty to defrauding victim

NORFOLK, Va. – The Virginia Beach man accused of orchestrating a scheme that took advantage of an elderly man with “diminished mental capacity” pleaded guilty Thursday to defrauding the victim of nearly $157,000.

News 3’s Margaret Kavanagh reported in early April that 55-year-old John Michael Gatchell arranged a marriage between the elderly man and a woman with whom Gatchell was in a long-term relationship in order to obtain the victim’s money and property.

The alleged scheme took place from October 2015 until September 2016. Gatchell was charged with one count of mail fraud.

John Gatchell

Court documents say Gatchell induced the man to make a down payment on a Jaguar that Gatchell and a family member drove for about 10 months before it was repossessed by the lender when the loan went into default.

Records say Gatchell also induced the victim to obtain two mortgage loans and then diverted most of the proceeds to the benefit of himself and others. He then induced the man to sell the property that secured the loans and again diverted most of the proceeds to himself and others.

Gatchell used the money that he fraudulently diverted to himself to buy concert series tickets, pay delinquent bills and make a security deposit and advance rent payments for a house he leased, among other things.

“The financial and emotional harm these scams cause elderly victims and their family members can be devastating,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “This office will continue to aggressively prosecute crimes involving elder fraud, and we remain committed to working closely with our local and state partners to ensure that those who choose to engage in fraud activity are held accountable and brought to justice.”

Related: Virginia Beach woman indicted for cross-country scheme targeting the elderly 

Gatchell pleaded guilty to mail fraud and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on September 6.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.