Dentist convicted of killing wife on African safari given life sentence and over $15M in penalties
Aug 20, 2023, 10:04 PM | Updated: Aug 21, 2023, 6:30 pm
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
DENVER (AP) — As a wealthy dentist convicted of killing his wife at the end of an African safari listened in court, her brother vowed on Monday to move her remains to a place that Larry Rudolph would never discover.
Shortly before a judge sentenced Rudolph to life in prison in the 2016 death of Bianca Rudolph, Vincent Finizio also predicted Larry Rudolph would “die alone and unmourned” and that his future grandchildren will never know he existed.
“Even Judas would be afraid to be in your company,” Finizio said, referencing the home of Jesus’ traitor — the worst circle of hell imagined by Dante.
U.S. District Judge William Martinez also imposed over an estimated $15 million in financial penalties against Rudolph, who was also convicted of mail fraud for cashing in nearly $5 million in insurance policies for his wife as he began a new life with his longtime girlfriend.
Rudolph has claimed throughout the case that his wife’s death in the southern African nation of Zambia was an accident. His lawyer, David Oscar Markus, said he and fellow defense lawyer, Margot Moss, were hopeful they would win an appeal.
“And we’ll be back to get a fair trial and then Larry can walk out of here a free man,” Markus said.
Prosecutors say Rudolph, who owned a Pittsburgh-area dental franchise, shot his wife of 34 years in the heart with a shotgun on her last morning in Zambia, and then put the gun in its soft case to make it look like she had accidentally shot herself while packing. The couple had been hunting game during their trip.
They also claim the setting, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) from the nearest police station, was the perfect place to try to get away with the crime, where they say he rushed to have his wife cremated and intimidated officials investigating her death.
They allege the goal was to live a lavish retirement with his longtime girlfriend, Lori Milliron, with the help of the insurance money. Milliron was sentenced to 17 years in prison in June after being convicted of being an accessory. She has filed an appeal.
The penalties for Rudolph include a combination of restitution, fines and property forfeiture. Rudolph also got a 20-year prison term to be served at the same time as his life sentence for his mail fraud conviction. Martinez ordered Rudolph serve his sentence at a prison with health care facilities because of his unspecified heart problems.
With a life sentence required under federal sentencing rules, Monday’s hearing focused mostly on the the financial penalties facing Rudolph, with pages after pages of financial charts tracking the movement of the insurance payouts discussed. Some was used to build two homes, one in Arizona and another in Pennsylvania, as well as for two luxury cars, an Aston Martin DB-11 and a Bentley Bentayga.
Martinez ordered Rudolph pay $4.9 million in restitution to the insurance companies and a $2 million fine. He also approved the forfeiture of the homes and cars as well other assets linked to the insurance proceeds, which the defense says totaled over $9 million. The government did not provide an estimate of their worth.
In a case where prosecutors argued that Bianca Rudolph’s murder was a “culmination of a lifetime spent seeking domination and control over others through wealth and power,” prosecutors had urged Martinez to impose a $10 million fine against Rudolph.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Fields argued the steep penalty was necessary to ensure he does not have the ability to seek revenge — whether through frivolous lawsuits or hiring hit men — from behind bars.
But Rudolph’s lawyers argued a fine that high would deny Rudolph’s two adult children, Julian and AnaBianca Rudolph, money they would inherit from their late mother’s estate. They also said Larry Rudolph, who estimated he was worth $27 million when he was arrested in 2021, was now only worth about $3 million. They said he did not have enough money to also pay a fine on top of the resititution to the insurance companies.
Martinez said he was persuaded by a letter from Julian Rudolph that a $10 million fine would further punish him and his sister.
The children have so far opted not to speak much publicly about the death, although AnaBianca Rudolph testified against Milliron, her father’s longtime girlfriend, at her sentencing. They did not appear at their father’s sentencing hearing.
Investigators in Zambia and for the insurers concluded Bianca Rudolph’s death was an accident. The insurance companies, some based in Colorado, then paid out the life insurance, according to the defense in court documents.
Larry Rudolph was arrested nearly five years after her death following an FBI investigation that sent agents traveling around the world to collect evidence and interview witnesses.
Prosecutors allege Rudolph built his wealth on fraud. In a document laying out the facts of the case, which is disputed by the defense, they say he shot off his thumb during a previous visit to Zambia to collect millions in disability insurance money; they also allege he cheated his dental patients, creating the need for root canals by not doing fillings or drilling holes in their teeth while they were asleep.
“Today points out that no matter how wealthy you are, no matter how prestigious you are, no matter how well connected you are, the long arm of the law will find you and justice will arrive for you,” Cole Finegan, the U.S. Attorney for Colorado, said after the sentencing.