A Staten Island man who headed an operation that bilked 5,000 victims out of $20 million has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

Kenneth Marsh, 44, of Prince's Bay, N.Y., who was sentenced on Tuesday, is a former stock broker who had been barred from the securities industry by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Marsh, who pleaded guilty in April to securities fraud, used aliases and false statements about the company's worth and expertise to convince people to invest, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta E. Lynch.

His co-defendants, who he trained to staff Gryphon Financial, ran an operation out of a strip mall in Staten Island. The co-defendants already have been sentenced to terms of three to 25 months in jail.

Through telephone sales calls and a sophisticated Web site, Marsh and his co-defendants told victims that Michael Warren and Ken Maseka (aliases) were self-made billionaires who founded Gryphon.

Marsh trained Gryphon sales representatives to use high-pressure sales tactics and a wide range of fraudulent misrepresentations to convince victims to pay to receive financial advice from the fictitious figures.

Marsh and his co-defendants invested heavily in extraordinarily volatile securities and took much of the money for themselves, the SEC said. They kept repeating the process until the victims' assets were depleted, Lynch says. Many of the victims were elderly and lost their life savings and some contemplated suicide because of the losses.

-Karen DeMasters