NEW YORK, JUNE 25 -- Robert B. Anderson, a former Treasury secretary once described by Dwight D. Eisenhower as "the finest candidate we could have" for president, was sentenced today to a month in prison and five months of "house arrest" for his role in several illegal business schemes.
The 77-year-old Anderson, white-haired and frail-looking, told Judge Edmund L. Palmieri in a quiet voice that he felt "remorse, shame, sorrow and humiliation, after having had the privilege of serving in so many distinguished positions, to come to this in the twilight of my life."
Anderson, who served in Eisenhower's Cabinet, pleaded guilty in March to two felony counts carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. He admitted that he illegally operated an offshore bank and evaded taxes on about $127,500 of income in 1984, most of it consulting fees from the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church.
Anderson's attorney, Arthur H. Christy, said his client was "emotionally and financially bankrupt" after a long bout with alcoholism that has led to hospitalization 10 times since 1981. Christy blamed Anderson's "fall from grace" on his drinking and on the gradual deterioration of Anderson's wife, Ollie Mae, who died this month after suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
"I'm not sure, to use the vernacular, that he was playing with a full deck," Christy said of his client.
But Stuart Abrams, the federal prosecutor in charge of the case, said that Anderson was "a person who should have known better" and that his crimes illuminated "a theme of breach of trust" running through his business activities.
Several present and former government officials, including House Speaker Rep. Jim Wright (D-Tex.), Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Tex.) and former New York mayor John V. Lindsay, wrote letters to Judge Palmieri urging leniency.
Palmieri said he found sentencing Anderson "difficult and painful" but emphasized that the offshore bank controlled by Anderson was deliberately established to serve tax evaders and money launderers.
"You committed a serious disservice," Palmieri told Anderson, who sat impassively at the defense table while the judge pronounced his sentence.
Besides one month in a federal prison and five months under court-supervised house arrest, Anderson's sentence includes five years of probation and enrollment in an alcohol-treatment program. Palmieri also ordered him to make a "good-faith effort" to repay depositors at his bank.
Raised in a pious cotton-farming family in Burleson, Tex., Anderson's career in government began when he was elected to the Texas legislature in 1932. He later served as the state's chief tax commissioner and assistant attorney general.
After backing Eisenhower in the 1952 presidential race, Anderson was named Navy secretary in 1953. He became deputy secretary of defense the next year, then left government for a position with a mining company before Eisenhower named him to the Treasury post in 1957.
During Eisenhower's second term, Anderson was regarded as an influential Cabinet member who enjoyed the president's trust. According to a biography by Stephen Ambrose, Eisenhower favored Anderson for the presidency in 1956 before deciding to pursue a second term.
Despite Eisenhower's urging, Anderson declined to seek public office in 1960 and instead embarked on international business ventures. Along the way, he carried out discreet diplomatic missions for a succession of presidents.
Questions about Anderson's business dealings were raised as far back as 1970, when press reports detailed a complex series of transactions through which Anderson was said to have obtained a $1 million interest in a Texas oil venture while serving in Eisenhower's Cabinet. It was alleged that Anderson supported oil-import restrictions while in government in an effort to improve his investment.
The deals leading to Anderson's guilty plea began in 1983, according to government documents, when the former Treasury secretary and a partner opened an offshore bank in the West Indies. From offices on New York's Fifth Avenue, Anderson helped recruit depositors but failed to register his bank as required by federal law.
Ultimately, about $4 million of uninsured deposits was lost by the bank because of investments in fraudulent oil and gas projects.
During this same period, Anderson was on retainer to the World Conference on Economic and Social Order Inc., an organization associated with the Unification Church. Prosecutors said Anderson failed to report at least $79,000 in income from the group on his 1983 and 1984 tax returns.
The Manhattan U.S. attorney said he had no evidence of wrongdoing by the Unification Church in connection with this case.
In recent years, Anderson allegedly used an account at Riggs Bank in Washington to hide income and to channel $13,500 to two unidentified women with whom he had personal relationships.