Philadelphia trader gets 10 years for investment schemes

NEW YORK Thu Oct 31, 2013 2:16pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Philadelphia commodities trader and hip-hop promoter Tyrone Gilliams Jr., who portrayed himself as an up-and-coming philanthropist, was sentenced on Thursday to 10 years in a federal prison for swindling investors out of more than $5 million.

The 10-year sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts was 2.5 years less than the minimum recommended by the U.S. Probation Office under federal sentencing guidelines.

Gilliams, 46, came to the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan with about two-dozen family members and friends, including his father, a Philadelphia-area minister.

Gilliams and his attorney Everette Scott were convicted in February following a jury trial of stealing money from investors, including a scheme involving a purported investment in U.S. Treasury Strips.

Last month Scott was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in the fraud.

Federal prosecutors charged Gilliams and Scott with misappropriating much of the investors' money for their own personal gain including luxury cars, jewelry and trips.

Gilliams, who says he is an ordained minister, also used some of the money to stage a splashy event at the Philadelphia Ritz-Carlton that was supposed to raise money for charity and was meant to bolster his image as philanthropist. The event included a number of celebrities, including music producer and fashion designer Sean "Diddy" Combs.

During the sentencing proceeding, Gilliams's attorney, Anthony Ricco, asked Batts to show some compassion for his client, saying that he was a good person who "let a lot of people down" but had good intentions.

"I am not here to make excuses for him," said Ricco. "He is a person of capable of redemption."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Levy rejected that description, saying that Gilliams "has not shown any remorse."

Gilliams, dressed in a dark suit and dark tie, said little during the proceeding, except to thank God and his family friends and parishioners for their support. Several dozen submitted letters of support to the court prior to the sentencing.

Prosecutors in a pre-sentencing memorandum took a tough line against Gilliams.

"It was an expensive party that was thrown not to help the less fortunate, but simply to self-promote Gilliams as a person of supposed wealth and importance," according to the memorandum.

Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against Gilliams and Scott in October 2011. Authorities filed the charges after Gilliams was the subject of Reuters Special Report in May 2011.

Prosecutors charged Gilliams with misappropriating $5 million from two group of investors in connection with the Treasury Strips scheme and $450,000 from an investment in a Utah coal mine.

As part of his sentence, Gilliams was ordered to make restitution to his victims.

(USA v. Tyrone L. Gilliams, Jr. 82-11 Cr. 975)

(Reporting by Matthew Goldstein; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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