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Ex-SEC lawyer gets 8 years for fraud

| April 25, 2010 9:00 PM

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) - A former enforcement attorney for the Securities and Exchange Commission was sentenced Friday to eight years in prison for his role in a series of multimillion dollar pump-and-dump stock fraud schemes.

Dallas-based attorney Phillip Offill Jr., 51, was convicted by a jury earlier this year on 10 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy. He testified that he was acting within the law, but the jury rejected his defense, and so too did U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady.

"Your testimony ... was an affront to justice," O'Grady told Offill at Friday's sentencing hearing. "It was one of the biggest pack of lies I've ever heard."

Offill, who worked at the SEC for 15 years before taking a job at the Godwin Gruber law firm in Dallas, aided schemes that by conservative estimates cheated more than 1,500 investors out of at least $2.4 million. The fraudsters would pump up the value of dubious penny stocks and then sell the shares at inflated prices to unwitting buyers.

Eight other coconspirators have already been convicted and sentenced in a case that has been under investigation for more than three years. Most of the illegal transactions took place in 2004.

The eight-year term imposed on Offill was one of the most severe. Prosecutor Ed Power said the tougher sentence was deserved because Offill lied on the witness stand and because his status as a respected attorney helped provide cover for the fraud.

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