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Probation Office: Cameron Collins should get six months in prison

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Probation Office recommends that Cameron Collins, the son of disgraced former Rep. Chris Collins, spend six months in prison in connection with the insider trading scheme that his father launched with a phone call to his son from the White House lawn in June 2017.

That's half as long as the prison term the office recommended for the four-term Republican congressman, who will be sentenced Jan. 17. Cameron Collins will be sentenced Jan. 23.

The Probation Office also suggests that Cameron Collins' sentence include a $150,000 fine, one year of supervised release and 200 hours of community service. That would be a significantly softer sentence than the one called for under federal sentencing guidelines, which indicate that he should spend between 37 and 46 months behind bars.

"In evaluating Cameron's personal history and characteristics, the Probation Department acknowledged that not one, but several, aspects of Cameron's life counsel in favor of a variance: the law-abiding life he has led, his profound commitment to volunteerism and service, his extreme remorse and acceptance of responsibility, his young age, and the truly aberrant nature of this conduct by an otherwise good and decent person," Collins' lawyers wrote.

The Probation Office recommendation and the Collins legal team's reaction to it can be found in the sentencing memorandum that Cameron Collins' lawyers filed in the case late Thursday. In that document, his lawyers suggest that probation, community service and a fine would be a more appropriate penalty than imprisonment.

"Cameron Collins is a good young man who made a bad mistake that was totally inconsistent with how he has lived his life," defense lawyers Rebecca M. Ricigliano and Thomas A. Hanusik wrote.

Chris Collins' recommended prison sentence? A year and a day.

Cameron Collins' troubles started on June 22, 2017, when his father, a board member of an Australian biotech called Innate Immunotherapeutics, called to deliver some bad and secret news: Innate's only product, a multiple sclerosis drug, failed in clinical trials.

"Cameron and his father agreed on that call that Cameron would sell a portion of shares (of Innate stock) if possible," Cameron's lawyers wrote.

Cameron Collins did just that. Then he told Stephen Zarsky, the father of his girlfriend Lauren Zarsky, and other Innate investors the secret bad news. Stephen Zarsky also pleaded guilty in the case.

"His concern for Lauren and her family informed Cameron's misguided decision to share inside information with the Zarskys, and to agree with them that they should trade," the defense lawyers wrote.

Nearly a year later, "Cameron compounded his earlier mistake by failing to tell the FBI agents the truth about his knowledge of the confidential trial results and the Zarsky's Innate holdings," the lawyers added.

Nevertheless, the lawyers argued for a reduced sentence for Cameron Collins, who in October pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud.

They noted that the federal sentencing guidelines recommend the same sentence for any financial crime that gains the offender between $550,000 and $1.5 million. Cameron Collins saved himself only $571,000 by dumping his Innate shares, his lawyers noted. He already repaid that money with interest – $634,299 – to settle the parallel Securities and Exchange Commission civil suit in the matter.

The lawyers also noted that several other inside traders had been sentenced to prison terms of no more than three months.

Given that Collins is only 27 and that he has otherwise led an exemplary life, his lawyers suggested no prison time at all. Along with probation and a fine, Collins would like to do community service with Habitat for Humanity, the Humane Society, an organization that serves the homeless in Naples, Fla, and a group that helps beachgoers in Marco Island, Fla., where the Collins family now lives.

 

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