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Published: Friday, 12/15/2006

Sentence reduced in Liberte fraud case

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

The prison sentence of a Toledo businessman convicted in a $90 million fraud case involving death futures was cut yesterday to 14 years from 20.

An emotional J. Richard Jamieson, head of the failed Liberte Capital Group LLC, expressed appreciation to federal Judge David Katz. "Thank you," the 44-year-old said during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Toledo.

With time served, Jamieson will be released from prison by the time he is 55 rather than 61 as with the previous sentence.

The case is among the largest and highest-profile white-collar fraud cases in Toledo history and involved an unusual type of investment that grew out of the AIDS epidemic. Prosecutors alleged that 2,000 investors nationwide were defrauded.

Seth Uram, assistant U.S. attorney, told Judge Katz that he and Jamieson's new lawyer, sentencing expert James Felman, of Tampa, agreed to the reduced prison term after "long, sometimes contentious" negotiations.

Discussions began after a U.S. Court of Appeals panel in Cincinnati last year upheld Jamieson's 2003 conviction on 157 counts of fraud conspiracy and money laundering, but overturned his sentence.

The panel cited the U.S. Supreme Court's rejection of mandatory sentencing guidelines in place when Jamieson was sent to prison in November, 2003. It also cited conclusions made by court personnel in calculating the sentencing recommendation submitted to Judge Katz.

The panel ruled that there wasn't sufficient evidence that Jamieson obstructed justice which, while not among the formal charges against him, contributed to his two-decade prison term.

Judge Katz, acting on prosecutors' recommendations, also lowered to $20 million from $92 million the restitution for Jamieson to pay victims.

The move's practical implications are unclear because the once-wealthy businessman could not afford an attorney at his 2003 trial and needed court-appointed counsel.

Jerry Kowalski, a Toledo attorney who represented victims in a class-action lawsuit, said the change could become significant if additional Jamieson assets are discovered.

Left unchanged was a forfeiture order the government used to seize Jamieson's Ottawa Hills home and other assets.

Jamieson is serving his sentence at a federal prison in Milan, Mich.

He appeared in court yesterday wearing handcuffs and a brown prison jumpsuit.

As part of his agreement with prosecutors, Jamieson has dropped further appeals of his conviction.

In the mid to late 1990s, prosecutors alleged, Jamieson and his Liberte Capital group conspired to fraudulently obtain life insurance policies for people already sick.

Many had tested positive for HIV and hid that from insurers.

The right to collect death benefits on the policies was re-sold to investors who got nothing when insurers uncovered the fraud and canceled coverage.

Contact Gary T. Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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