Apollo Nida sentenced to eight years for bank fraud, ID theft

Apollo Nida pleads guilty in fraud scheme

Apollo Nida, the husband of Phaedra Parks on "The Real Housewives of Atlanta," Tuesday received an eight-year sentence by a federal court judge for his four-year scheme involving bank, mail and wire fraud and ID theft of more than 50 individuals to the tune of  an estimated $2 million.

He cooperated with authorities, which helped reduce his sentence.

Judge Charles Pannell, under sentencing guidelines, could have given him anywhere from 92 to 115 months. The government was okay with the lower end of those guidelines. Pannell went slightly above the 92 months partly because white collar criminals of his ilk tend to have a high rate of recidivism, Pannell said on the stand.

Nida, dressed in a tan suit and wearing a beard and mustache thicker than seen on the television show, questioned the slightly harsher 96-month sentence to the judge and appeared annoyed after the hearing. "The government did what they had to do," Nida said before entering the elevator the downtown federal courthouse. When asked if he was unhappy about the sentence, he said, "Whatever the judge gave."

"Today's sentencing exemplifies impartial justice regardless of economic class or perceived celebrity status.  Nida's sentence should be an eye opener for other like-minded criminals who scheme to steal victims' identities, defraud them and ignore the consequences of their actions," said Reginald G. Moore, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service, Atlanta Field Office, in a press release.

Nida's attorney Thomas Bever attempted to get the sentence reduced due in part to Nida's poor upbringing but Pannell felt that was not a big enough factor given Nida's age (35).

Pannell did recommend that Nida be placed in a prison close to Atlanta for the benefit of his family, which includes two young sons with Parks. Parks, who Bever said at a previous hearing was not involved in the scheme, did not attend the sentencing.

Given the eight-year sentence, Nida may not see freedom until 2022. Bever said after the sentencing that Nida could potentially get out more than a year early for good behavior and be sent to a halfway house.

Before the judge, Nida said he was sorry for his behavior, as he did in May during the last hearing when he pled guilty, a move that significantly helped reduce his length of imprisonment.  "I want to apologize to the victims," he said. "I want to apologize to my family for letting them down."

Nida was in prison for six years, from 2003 to 2009, for a racketeering charge related to a car theft scheme. He began his new white-collar criminal actions soon after he got out of prison in 2009. During his May sentencing, he took full responsibility for his actions but said he did it because he felt pressure to make money to keep up his wife's high-profile attorney income and "Real Housewives" salary. Given his background, finding a legitimate job, he said, was a challenge.

To help bolster the case that Nida had a tough childhood, his attorney brought up Nida's half brother Michael Derrick and Nida's mom Katrina Toohey to speak on his behalf. Toohey tearfully said she was not a good mother and was addicted to drugs. She said Nida saw her not only get beaten by a boyfriend but also overdose on cocaine. "I send my children through hell," she said.

He was largely raised by friends and family members and didn't have any real parental figures, Bever said. Nida dropped out of high school and got engulfed in the car theft ring that led him to prison the first time around. "He's not a villain," Nida's half brother said. "He's a human being. He has a heart."

Alana Black, the assistant U.S. attorney, told the judge that Nida was given a second chance in 2009 to start his life on the right foot when he married Parks, who had a comfortable income. But she said he squandered it by going back to his white-collar criminal ways. The judge ultimately favored the prosecution on that count.

In 2009, according to documentation filed by the U.S. government when they filed papers against him in January, Nida opened a fake debt collection agency to gain access to databases full of individual's personal information. He would then steal people's ID and find unclaimed funds, refunds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, stolen U.S. treasury checks and refunds from fraudulent U.S. income tax returns.

Nida had a woman named Gayla St. Julien open UPS mailboxes and bank checking accounts using those fake identities, deposit those checks, then pocket the money.

Later, he created fake auto dealerships and then get auto loans for phantom cars. (You can read more about that here from the May hearing and here.)

When Secret Service caught St. Julien, she led them to Nida. His laptop and phone were confiscated last September and that's how the government received much of its evidence against him.

Nida was released and is still free under bond. Bever said normally, the government will send him to prison within three to six weeks after sentencing.