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Collins, co-defendants could face 4 to 6 years if convicted on all counts

Federal prosecutors said Rep. Chris Collins and his son could each face maximum sentences of 150 years in federal prison if convicted on all the charges filed against them in an insider trading case this week.

But according to a Buffalo defense attorney who has researched the case, the more likely prison terms would be in the neighborhood of four to six years for each defendant.

"It is very unusual in a white collar crime case for someone to be sentenced to the statutory maximum," said defense attorney Barry N. Covert.

Covert said actual sentences would be based on the counts someone is convicted of, the previous criminal history they have, the amount of financial losses and other factors. He calculates Collins and the other defendants could face sentences in the range of four to six years, if convicted on all of the charges.

While declining to comment on Covert's calculations, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office that is handling the case in New York City agreed that it unlikely that the defendants would ever be sentenced to the maximum terms under law. He said his office only provided the maximum numbers because news reporters asked for them.

Collins, 68; Cameron Collins, 25; and another co-defendant, Stephen Zarsky, 66, who lives in Summit, N.J.; have all pleaded not guilty to felony charges of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud, securities fraud, wire fraud and making false statements to FBI agents.

Here's how prosecutors say Chris Collins' insider trading unfolded

Collins has called the charges "meritless."

One of Cameron Collins' attorneys, Rebecca Monck Ricigliano, declined to comment on potential sentences when contacted by The Buffalo News on Friday. She said she and her co-counsel, Thomas A. Hanusik, "intend to mount a vigorous defense on behalf of our client" but declined to discuss the case further.

Attorneys for Chris Collins and Zarsky did not respond to calls and emails seeking their comments on Friday.

A look at court records from three recent insider trading cases prosecuted by the same office showed that sentences have ranged from 15 months to five years.

In July 2017, a professional sports gambler named Billy Walters was sentenced to five years in federal prison for his role in what prosecutors called a $43 million insider trading scheme.

In February of this year, New York City attorney Walter "Chet" Little was sent to prison for 27 months after pleading guilty to conspiracy in an insider trading case. Prosecutors said the scheme netted Little and a business associate about $1 million.

In March, a judge sentenced a college researcher named Fei Yan to 15 months in federal prison for his role in a New York City insider trading scheme that netted Yan about $120,000.

Legal experts say Chris Collins will find it tough to clear his name

Sentences for white collar defendants convicted of non-violent crimes are usually far below the statutory maximums, in part because the defendants usually have no previous record of criminal convictions, said Covert, who practices frequently in Buffalo's federal court.

"Some of the other factors that are looked at in determining the guideline sentencing range are the defendant's role in the crime — whether he was a leader or not," Covert said. "Other factors would be whether the defendant was in a position of trust, how many people were involved in the crime, how sophisticated the crime was and whether justice was obstructed."

Prosecutors of the Southern District of New York allege that a Chris Collins insider stock tip to his son enabled Cameron Collins and others to hurriedly sell a total of 1.78 million shares of stock in an Australian drug company. Prosecutors said the stock sales enabled those involved to avoid losses of $768,600.

According to a non-criminal complaint filed by the Securities Exchange Commission, Cameron Collins sold "nearly 1.4 million Innate shares based on material, nonpublic information" he received from his father. The complaint said Zarsky sold 303,000 shares.

Collins is not accused of selling shares, but of passing on the information that led others to sell.

The only one of the three defendants to speak publicly about the allegations has been Chris Collins, who said he plans to go to trial to clear his name.

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