A judge sentenced a man to 20 years in prison Thursday for collecting $2 million by promoting himself as a law expert who could win freedom for inmates across the country.
Federal prosecutors were recommending 17 ½ years in prison for John Wilson, of Yale, who returned to Detroit federal court Thursday, six months after pleading guilty to fraud and a tax crime.
As part of his sentence, Wilson will have to pay $2 million in restitution.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Resnick Cohen says Wilson was a "wolf in sheep's clothing" who targeted poor, vulnerable families whose loved ones were in prison. He admits duping 2,100 victims by offering to get inmates released through research and a successful appeal.
The 57-year-old Wilson doesn't have a college degree. The scam went on for a decade.
Cohen says Wilson also has a history of impersonating a doctor and a sheriff.