US lawyer gets year in prison in Refco fraud

Jul 16, 2013, 2:13 AM

NEW YORK (AP) – A Chicago-area lawyer convicted in a $2.4 billion fraud that led to the collapse of a giant independent commodities firm was sentenced Monday to a year and a day in prison.

Joseph P. Collins, 62, of Winnetka, Ill., was sentenced in Manhattan federal court after his November conviction on charges including conspiracy, securities fraud and wire fraud. Collins was formerly the chief outside attorney for the now-defunct financial services company Refco Group Inc.

Refco, once the nation’s largest independent commodities firm, filed for bankruptcy in 2005. Its former CEO pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Others convicted included one of Refco’s former owners, a former chief financial officer and a former executive vice president.

Collins maintained that Refco executives never revealed the fraud to him.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement that Collins was a lawyer “deeply and corruptly enmeshed in coordinating and concealing the massive accounting fraud that ultimately led to Refco’s collapse.”

Prosecutors said Collins played a pivotal role in the fraud to falsify Refco’s financial statements by hiding an enormous debt the company held from Refco’s investors and auditors. They said Collins and lawyers at his firm drafted documents on at least 17 occasions from February 2000 through October 2005 to help the company conceal the size of its debt.

Collins was originally convicted in 2009, but the conviction was reversed last year by the federal appeals court in Manhattan.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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US lawyer gets year in prison in Refco fraud