Crime and Courts

Chief investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.
New York

Prosecutors Seek 5 Years in Prison for Ex-NY Rep. Chris Collins in Fraud Case

Despite his lawyers saying he is "remorseful," prosecutors said the former lawmaker doubled down on his crime by lying to investigators

What to Know

  • Prosecutors are seeking nearly five years in prison for a former congressman who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud
  • Attorneys said Chris Collins' crime was "exacerbated by its total gratuitousness," given that he was a millionaire not needing money
  • They said Collins should be sentenced at the top of a recommended federal sentence guidelines range of 46 to 57 months

A former congressman should serve nearly five years in prison for insider trading, especially after coming to represent "the cynical idea that those in power who make the laws are not required to follow them," prosecutors said Monday.

Christopher Collins, 69, is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday after the Republican pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and lying to law enforcement officials about feeding inside information about a biotechnology company to his son.

His lawyers say their "humbled, penitent and remorseful" client should face no time behind bars.

But prosecutors wrote in pre-sentence arguments to a federal judge that Collins doubled down on his crime by lying to investigators.

They also said that his crime was "exacerbated by its total gratuitousness" because Collins at the time needed no money since he had $13.8 million in assets, not including another $6.9 million that was owed to him.

Former Rep. Chris Collins pleaded guilty Tuesday in an insider trading case, a day after he resigned from Congress and set off a scramble to fill his seat in his Republican-leaning district.

They also were critical of a recommendation by the court's Probation Department that Collins be sentenced to only a year and a day in prison. Probation officials cited the fact that Collins was concerned for his son, Cameron Collins, who has pleaded guilty and also is to be sentenced this month.

Prosecutors, though, noted that Cameron Collins is also wealthy, with a net worth of over $21 million, including over $1.2 million in cash and a residence in Florida valued at nearly $2 million.

"In committing insider trading and later lying to federal agents to cover it up, and in continuing to actively serve in the House of Representatives during that time period, Collins came to embody the cynical idea that those in power who make the laws are not required to follow them," prosecutors wrote.

They said Collins should be sentenced at the top of a recommended federal sentence guidelines range of 46 to 57 months, in part because his crime was brazen and to "assure the public that those in power do not stand above the law."

Prosecutors cited numerous letters written to the judge expressing deep frustration and disappointment with the former congressman's behavior.

They noted that Collins' own sentencing submission had emphasized his strong moral compass with repeated reference to his membership in the Boy Scouts, but prosecutors said this "only underscores that he was well positioned to know better."

Collins represented western New York since his election to the 27th Congressional District of New York in 2012.

Collins pleaded guilty after he was charged with leaking information about a biopharmaceutical company, so his son and friends could avoid $800,000 in stock losses before an announcement of a drug trial failure caused the stock price to plunge 92%.

An indictment said Collins learned the bad news in an email from the chief executive of Innate Immunotherapeutics Ltd. while Collins was attending the Congressional Picnic at the White House on June 22, 2017.

At the time, Collins sat on the company board and was its largest shareholder, with nearly 17% the the shares of the biotechnology company headquartered in Sydney, Australia, with offices in Auckland, New Zealand.

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