Chris Collins starts prison term


Disgraced former congressman Chris Collins began serving his insider trading sentence Tuesday at a minimum security Florida prison.

Collins, 70, was originally scheduled to report to prison on March 17, but that date was delayed in April and further pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

His latest attempt at a delay — again citing health concerns — was denied earlier this month by a federal judge.

Prosecutors had argued it was safe for Collins to enter the prison and time for him to begin serving his sentence. He will also need to pay a $200,000 fine.

Collins, a Republican, served in Congress for seven years and represented the 27th District, which includes the GLOW region.

He resigned in September 2019 after pleading guilty to insider trading. His sentencing marked a significant personal and political downfall.

A former Erie County executive who was later elected to Congress, Collins received national attention as the first to endorse then-Presidential candidate Donald Trump back in 2017.

The insider trading case stemmed back to June 2017 when Collins — who served on the board of directors for the Australian company Innate Immunotherapeutics — learned a multiple sclerosis drug the company had been testing was a failure.

Collins was obligated to keep the results secret until they were released publicly. But he instead tipped off his son Cameron, along with Stephen Zarsky, the father of Cameron’s fiancée.

That allowed them to dump their stock in the company, avoiding more than $768,000 in losses.

Collins himself did not sell his shares and lost millions of dollars. He had initially denied the allegations before pleading guilty.

FPC Pensacola is a federal prison camp about a nine-hour drive from Collins’ home in Marco Island, Fla., where former House of Representatives Speaker John A. Boehner is among Collins’ neighbors. Boehner wrote a letter of support on behalf of his former colleague to Judge Vernon S. Broderick.

“In the absence of a decision on his motion for an extension of the reporting date, Mr. Collins has reported as initially directed to FPC Pensacola. Although he is greatly concerned about the serious risks to his health from Covid 19 by reporting, he looks forward to putting this chapter behind him,” and emailed statement from Collins’ attorneys, Jon Barr and Jon New, said.

The 27th Congressional District is now served by Republican Chris Jacobs, who won a special election this past spring to serve out the remainder of Collins’ term of office. The seat is up for election again in November, with Democrat Nate McMurray again challenging Jacobs for the position.

Includes Tribune News Service reporting

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