Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr., political extremist and perennial presidential candidate, was sentenced today to 15 years in prison for scheming to defraud federal tax collectors and deliberately failing to repay more than $30 million in loans from his political supporters.
U.S. District Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr. also sentenced chief LaRouche fund-raiser William Wertz to five years in prison and an $11,000 fine, and gave LaRouche legal coordinator Edward Spannaus a five-year term and a $10,000 fine.
Fund-raisers Michael Billington and Dennis Small received three-year prison terms and fines of $8,000 each. Fund-raisers Paul Greenberg and Joyce Rubenstein were given three-year terms and $6,000 in fines each.
LaRouche attorney Odin Anderson said all seven defendants would appeal. He called LaRouche a prominent political figure and said his "many powerful enemies have had their day."
A federal trial jury convicted LaRouche and the six associates on Dec. 16 of mail fraud and conspiracy for raising more then $30 million in loans from political supporters without any intention of repaying them. One elderly woman testified that she had lost nearly $113,000 in life savings.
LaRouche also was convicted of scheming to defraud the Internal Revenue Service by having all his personal expenses paid by various corporations he controls and claiming that he had no taxable income.
U.S. Atty. Henry Hudson called the sentences "a very satisfying culmination to a very long journey," but added: "This will never repay all those victims who have been swindled out of millions of dollars over the years. I feel sorry for those people."
Bryan told LaRouche, who stood facing the judge with arms folded in front of him, that he had been convicted of "a serious crime" and said he rejected LaRouche's belief "that the end justifies the means, as resorted to in this case."
Bryan refused to grant bail to the three main defendants pending appeals.
The judge also rejected as "errant nonsense" the defendants' claims that their prosecution by the government was politically motivated. He said the idea that LaRouche's organization was of sufficient threat to warrant such a prosecution "just defies human experience."
LaRouche's sentence was considerably less than the maximum penalty on 13 counts of tax and mail fraud conspiracy. The maximum would be 65 years in prison and fines totaling $3.25 million.
Outside the federal courthouse in this Washington suburb, about 60 LaRouche supporters sang, waved American flags and paraded with bed-sheet banners reading "Pardon LaRouche--Kill Satan" and "Stop KGB Frame Up-Murder of LaRouche."
It was the first time in LaRouche's controversial political career that he has been convicted of criminal charges. LaRouche, 66, has run for President in the last three elections as a Democrat or an independent candidate espousing unorthodox conspiracy theories on world issues.
The one-time Marxist has tried to link British Queen Elizabeth II and Henry Kissinger to drug traffickers and has accused the International Monetary Fund of spreading AIDS through its economic policies.