Three followers of political extremist Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. were convicted on securities fraud charges yesterday in Roanoke, bringing to eight the number of supporters found guilty after a 1986 raid on the organization's Leesburg headquarters.
At the end of a two-month trial, a circuit court jury recommended sentences of 40 years for Lawrence Hecht, 41 years for Paul Gallagher and 46 years for his wife, Anita Gallagher. All three raised funds for LaRouche, a perennial political candidate who is serving a 15-year federal sentence for conspiracy, mail fraud and tax evasion.
Circuit Court Judge Clifford R. Weckstein set sentencing for Feb. 22. Eight other LaRouche fund-raisers remain to be tried in the case.
Virginia Attorney General Mary Sue Terry hailed the verdict. "These LaRouche organizations were nothing but a scam," she said. "They were a con game that bilked more than $30 million from innocent people across the United States."
Dana Scanlon, a spokesman for LaRouche, called the recommended sentences "pure barbarism" with "no justification . . . . You could probably murder several people and not get these types of sentences."
Prosecutors say the fund-raisers sold unregistered securities in return for loans to LaRouche's publishing enterprises. They say that elderly people were particularly vulnerable to the organization's pleas for money and that huge loans went unpaid.
Senior Assistant Attorney General John B. Russell said the group is still soliciting funds and that complaints are still being received by the state.
The LaRouche organization has said that the prosecutions represent a political vendetta, and that bankruptcy proceedings against it prevented the group from repaying the loans.
The first LaRouche supporter to stand trial, Rochelle Ascher, received a 10-year sentence from a judge in Leesburg after a jury recommended 86 years in prison. The remaining 15 cases subsequently were shifted to Roanoke.
Russell said the eight defendants who have been convicted or have pleaded guilty to charges are those responsible for most of the alleged fraud. LaRouche was permitted to testify in the trial that ended yesterday.