LAS VEGAS, AUG. 31 -- Former penny-stock king Meyer Blinder was sentenced to 46 months in prison on racketeering and securities fraud charges today, despite pleas the punishment was tantamount to a death sentence.
U.S. District Judge Lloyd George rejected pleas that Blinder, 70, was in failing health and that he was innocent in a scheme the government contends bilked millions of dollars from tens of thousands of investors.
Blinder, who has had a quintuple heart bypass operation and uses a pacemaker, told the judge any prison time would kill him.
But George said there were facilities that could provide him with appropriate medical care.
Blinder has been jailed since his conviction July 10 by a Las Vegas jury.
George also imposed a three-year probation at the end of Blinder's sentence, along with a $100,000 fine and the cost of incarceration.
Special Prosecutor Joseph Dion, a Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer, said Blinder's Denver-based firm, Blinder, Robinson & Co., victimized thousands of customers.
"Mr. Blinder has shown no compassion for the people from which he took millions of dollars," Dion said. He charged Blinder, Robinson with selling "garbage to the public."
Blinder's company was the largest in the country dealing in penny stocks -- those that typically sell for less than $1 a share -- in the 1980s. The company declared bankruptcy in 1990 amid growing allegations of fraud and scandal.
The judge today denied a defense request that Blinder be released on bail pending an appeal. George agreed with prosecutors that the Denver resident posed a flight risk and a danger because of threats he had made against others, particularly the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Howard Zlotnick. Blinder apologized for his threat against Zlotnick.
George issued the sentence at the end of a 2 1/2-hour session in which both the defendant and his wife, Lillian Blinder, appealed for mercy.
"I can help more on the outside than the inside," Blinder told the judge. "I can't do anything in jail except die. Please don't give me a death sentence."
Mrs. Blinder told the judge, "We are in the twilight of our years and need each other so much." She said a prison sentence would be "a death sentence not only for him but for me."
Blinder had faced the possibility of a maximum 60-year prison sentence.
A federal bankruptcy judge in Denver last week accepted a settlement in Blinder's bankruptcy case that will leave Mrs. Blinder with about $1.8 million.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Sidney B. Brooks accepted the settlement Friday but said he wanted "to send a message" to George that the Blinders tried to "stampede" a deal.
The settlement allows Mrs. Blinder to keep the couple's Englewood, Colo., condominium, two Mercedes-Benz automobiles and a Cadillac, $577,500 worth of stock and various bonds.
The SEC had argued against the settlement, claiming Mrs. Blinder already benefits from wealthy children and lives mortgage free.