Suspect gets two years in bank scam |

Suspect gets two years in bank scam

Rick CarrollAspen, CO Colorado

Newark, N.J. Millionaire Bert Fingerhut, a longtime Mountain Rescue Aspen member, well-known conservationist and former Wall Street bank executive, was sentenced Friday to two years in federal prison in connection to his role in a sophisticated securities scam.Fingerhut, 63, also was fined $75,000 and must serve four months in home confinement after his prison sentence, attorneys on both sides said. Court documents show that he also agreed to forfeit $11 million in illegal profits, in conjunction with a civil case the federal government filed. “This is the single largest bank-conversion scheme that the Department of Justice has ever prosecuted,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Karl Buch said in a telephone interview following the sentencing hearing before Judge Peter G. Sheridan in the U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J.Fingerhut faced five years in federal prison, but because he has aided the government in its investigation of other suspects in the scheme, who have not yet been charged, the judge gave him a reduced sentence. “We’re quite satisfied with the sentence,” Buch said. “This sends a message to bank-conversion violators.”Fingerhut’s sentence takes effect Nov. 5 at an undetermined prison facility, officials said. Family and friends attended Friday’s hearing to support him, said his defense attorney, Larry A. Mackey of Indianapolis. “He made an eloquent presentation [to the judge during the sentencing hearing] and asked the court for leniency because of all of the community service he has performed and his dedication to conservation,” Mackey said. “The court gave that credence.”According to the Star Ledger newspaper of New Jersey, Fingerhut told the judge: “This was purely to satisfy my ego. I never needed a dime of that money.”Mackey said Fingerhut, who is married with two daughters and will reside in California until he goes to prison, is “devastated” about going to prison. Mackey said he expects Fingerhut’s release after 20 months of incarceration, provided he behaves well.The sentencing comes after Fingerhut pleaded guilty in May to federal conspiracy charges stemming from a decade-long plot to make more than $12 million in illegal profits by circumventing state and federal banking regulations to make lucrative stock purchases. Court documents said Fingerhut would illegally buy stock in mutual banks that were about to make their initial public offerings, and in doing so, cheated investors. At the time of his plea, Securities and Exchange Commission regional director Mark K. Schonfeld called the scheme “the most extensive bank conversion fraud we have ever seen.”Rick Carroll’s e-mail address is