ELLSWORTH — A federal judge has denied convicted Brooklin Boat Yard embezzler Steve Nygren’s request to serve the rest of his prison sentence at home due to concerns about contracting COVID-19 at the Fort Devens, Mass., penitentiary where he’s currently incarcerated.
Nygren, 53, is serving a seven-year sentence for bank fraud, unauthorized use of credit cards and tax evasion. He embezzled over $800,000 from the boat yard, according to prosecutors.
Nygren said he suffers from hypertension and liver failure, which combined with the virus could prove fatal. Social distancing in prison is impossible, according to Nygren. Inmates have been supplied with face masks, but they are supposed to wear each one for 10 days in a row before being issued a new one, he stated in his emergency motion for modification of sentence.
“The court remains concerned about recidivism today because Mr. Nygren is a highly intelligent and accomplished man who has a way of inveigling his way into the financial lives of others and cheating them,” U.S. District Court Judge John A. Woodcock wrote in his decision. “Mr. Nygren has lost none of his ability to inflict financial fraud upon his release.”
Bangor attorney Stephen C. Smith of Lipman & Katz, Attorneys at Law had represented Nygren in his appeal. However, when reached for comment about the court’s decision, Smith said he no longer represented Nygren.
Nygren, through attorney Smith, had said if released, he would be living at home with his wife and had a sales job already lined up — a fact that did not impress the court.
“The court was surprised to see as part of Nygren’s proposed release plan to see him accepting a job working as a salesman,” Woodcock stated. “Mr. Nygren did not provide the court with a detailed job description other than that the position is titled Internet Sales and Marketing Director.”
Often sales work involves accepting checks and credit card numbers for payments, the judge said. “Far from being reassured by Mr. Nygren’s proposal, the court is concerned by this further evidence of his lack of self-reflection.”
From 2010 to 2015, when he was arrested for defrauding the boat yard of over $800,000, Nygren defrauded others, the court said.
“His schemes involved forging federal tax forms, setting up dummy accounts in the name of his trusting aunt, providing a false Social Security number to an employer, forging unauthorized checks from an employer to a dummy corporation that he controlled, hiding his assets in his wife’s name, and all the while lying to the IRS about his own assets and income,” Woodcock stated. “Mr. Nygren’s financial misdeeds were sophisticated and traded on personal trust.”
According to court records, Nygren had committed fraud while on probation for a Massachusetts offense.
“This fact makes it difficult for the court to trust that Mr. Nygren would be deterred from further criminal acts by the fact that he was on supervised release,” said Woodcock. “The court finds that Mr. Nygren poses a significant risk of economic harm to the community if released. The court is unable to release Mr. Nygren into the community because it fears that it would be just a matter of time before he perpetrated another financial fraud against another trusting soul.”
Yet another issue for the court in deciding whether to grant early release was that Nygren “feigned incompetence after his stroke,” the judge said.
As of Jan. 14, the most recent record available, 108 inmates at Fort Devens are infected with COVID-19. A total of 270 inmates have recovered from the disease and seven inmates have died, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Nygren was ordered on May 24, 2018, to serve 95 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release. His release date at this point is estimated to be Oct. 2, 2025, according to court records.