Federal Prosecutors in New York on Monday recommended that Christopher Collins (R-N.Y.) receive a sentence near the “top end” allowed by the federal criminal guidelines, asking the judge to send the former congressman to prison for 46 to 57 months for conspiring to commit securities fraud and lying to federal investigators.
In a letter to U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick of the Southern District of New York, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said that as a member of Congress, Collins was “better situated than almost anyone else to understand the societal importance of following the law and of not impeding the work of law enforcement through lies,” but “flouted both of these responsibilities.”
Collins, who rose to prominence in the party as the first sitting member of Congress to endorse then-candidate Donald Trump, resigned from the House of Representatives in September — one day before pleading guilty to the aforementioned charges and more than a year after he was indicted in August 2018.
Collins admitted that, through his position on the board of directors for pharmaceutical manufacturer Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited, he provided his son Cameron Collins with non-public information about the poor results of a trial test for one of the company’s drugs. Cameron used that information to illegally trade on the stock, avoiding a loss of approximately $570,900.
The DOJ highlighted Collins’s unbridled avarice as being particularly reprehensible and warranting the severe sentencing.
“The cynicism of Collins’s conduct – his decision to repeatedly violate federal law while continuing to accept the trust of the public to draft it – is exacerbated by its total gratuitousness. Collins committed a financial crime without having any financial need,” he wrote. “Congressman Collins’s personal assets include, among other things, a baseball card collection and a coin collection each of which is worth $1 million. Collins could have ameliorated any concern he had that Cameron would lose money in Innate by simply gifting Cameron money. His choice to commit fraud instead, as if the two options were morally equivalent, bespeaks a total disregard for the rules that are intended to govern everyone’s actions. His subsequent lies to the FBI indicate the same disregard.”
As Law&Crime previously reported, Collins was already under investigation–and knew he was under investigation–when the alleged insider trading scheme went into operation.
In January 2017, Collins was overheard by reporters while he was using his cellphone in the halls of Congress. The congressman appeared to be bragging about his ability to call publicly-traded stocks. Collins reportedly said, “Do you know how many millionaires I’ve made in Buffalo the past few months?”
Those comments subsequently received several rounds of reporting by Politico, the Washington Post and the Buffalo News.
In April 2017, the Daily Beast reported on Collins’ ties to Innate–an Australia-based pharmaceutical company–and noted that “Collins’s children, his chief of staff, and a score of campaign donors” purchased shares in the company apparently based on Collins’ advocacy. Eventually those stock prices tripled.
Read the DOJ’s full letter below:
Colin Kalmbacher contributed to this report.
[image via Win McNamee/Getty Images]