Monday, December 04, 2006

Martha Ivery Sentenced

Almost exactly a year ago, on December 8, 2005, I did a post titled "Anatomy of a Writing Scam." In that column, I reported that Martha Ivery had admitted scamming hundreds of writers out of almost $700,000.

Ivery defrauded wannabe writers from May, 1995 through September, 2002 by pretending first to be a publisher and, later, to be a literary agent named Kelly O'Donnell.

Martha/Kelly ran ads on the Internet and in Writer's Digest magazine soliciting clients. When wannabe writers approached the Kelly O'Donnell Literary Agency, they were charged a fee for representation. Then the prospective authors were advised that their manuscripts needed editing and, of course, there would be an editing fee. There were additional fees for illustration, marketing and copies of the unpublished manuscript. Eventually, the writers would be referred to the Press-Tige Publishing Company, Martha's operation.

Martha/Kelly had a variety of excuses for the fact that the book remained unpublished years after the fees had been paid. These included: lost manuscripts, printing problems, computer viruses and production backlogs. According to Newsday.com, "in one case, Ivery claimed] that . . . a manuscript had been aboard one of the planes hijacked in the Sept. 11 attacks . . ."

The Writer Beware website here said that, from 1998 to 2003, they received "scores of complaints" about Martha/Kelly. Writer Beware also said that "a criminal investigation into Ivery's activities was launched by the FBI in 2001."

This week, Victoria Strauss and Ann Crispin of Writer Beware both reported that Martha Ivery has finally been sentenced. On November 29, 2006, in a Federal courtroom in upstate New York, a judge sentenced Ivery to 65 months in Federal prison, plus 3 years' probation. She was also ordered to pay $728,248 in restitution to 231 victims--something that is not likely to ever happen.

On December 5, 2005, Ivery had pleaded guilty to a 17-count indictment: 15 felony counts of mail fraud charges for amounts ranging from $1,665 to $10,025. Additionally, she had one count of credit card fraud and one count of lying during her bankruptcy filing.

This is the end of a long, ugly scam by a woman who showed no compassion for her victims nor awareness of her wickedness until she was brought into a Federal courtroom. There she suddenly professed to have found religion.

What's that old saw about there not being any atheists in foxholes?

I applaud the sentence and the people who brought Ivery to justice. I hope she serves every day of her 65 months in jail because it is very unlikely that she will ever reimburse any of those people she defrauded.

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