Former New York Congressman Christopher Collins was sentenced Friday to 26 months in federal prison for his role in an illegal insider trading scheme.
The Republican lawmaker was sentenced to 26 months for conspiracy to commit insider trading and 26 months for lying to the FBI, to be served concurrently.
He must voluntarily surrender on March 17 to the Bureau of Prisons at a to-be-determined facility. His defense team has asked that he be allowed to serve his time at a federal prison camp in Pensacola, Florida, and U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick in Manhattan said he would recommend that.
Collins, 69, who was the first sitting member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for president, pleaded guilty to the charges in October. He was accused of using nonpublic information stemming from his relationship with an Australian medical biotech firm to help his family make illegal stock trades to avoid more than $768,000 in losses.
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He resigned from Congress immediately after the plea.
Collins told the courtroom that after he learned about the failure of a drug trial from the company’s CEO, he called his son to alert him. Collins told his son he could trade his shares to avoid a substantial loss.
His son, Cameron Collins, and Stephen Zarsky, the father of Cameron Collins’ fiancée, were also charged with insider trading and lying to the FBI in interviews to cover up the scheme.
“Lawmakers bear the profound privilege and responsibility of writing and passing laws, but equally as important, the absolute obligation of following them,” Geoffrey S. Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement Friday.
Collins represented New York’s 27th Congressional seat — a suburban district that includes parts of Buffalo. Trump won the district by 24 points in 2016, and the seat generally has been viewed as safe for the GOP in the otherwise blue state. The Cook Political Report rated the district as “solid Republican” on Monday, suggesting the scandal has not hampered the GOP’s grip on the area. Under New York State law, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has the authority to set a date for a special election to fill the seat.
Collins served on the board of Innate Immunotherapeutics, a small Australian pharmaceutical company, for three years until 2017 and was one of its biggest shareholders with a nearly 17 percent ownership stake.
Prosecutors said Collins passed along the yet-undisclosed results of a drug trial intended to treat an advanced form of multiple sclerosis to his son in June 2017. He intended for Cameron Collins to “use that information to make timely trades in Innate stock and tip others,” according to prosecutors. When the news of the failed drug trial was made public, the stock value fell 92 percent.
Collins was on the lawn of the White House attending a congressional picnic in June 2017 when Innate’s chief executive sent an email to the board of directors reporting that the trial was a bust, according to the indictment.