Arledge sentenced to 78 months in federal prison|[10/11/07]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 11, 2007

JACKSON — Vicksburg attorney Robert Arledge was sentenced today to serve 78 months — 6 1/2 years — in a federal prison for his conviction of seven counts of conspiracy and mail and wire fraud was scheduled to be sentenced in federal court today.

Arledge also was ordered to immediately pay $375,000 as part of the restitution stemming from his convictions of wrongdoing relating to his representation of clients in the nationwide fen-phen diet drug settlement case,.

U.S. District Judge David Bramlette additionally ordered Arledge, 50, to appear before the court again Dec. 12 for further orders on repaying the $6,71,0334.90 he was convicted of appropriating. Arledge was convicted March 23 in federal court in Jackson and found innocent of 17 counts of money laundering.

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Following the sentencing, Arledge said nothing and showed no emotion. Before, he stood before Bramlette and said, “I have tried to live my life an honest man.”

Arledge’s sentencing date had been delayed twice. Originally set for Aug. 6, it was delayed after discussions arose about sentencing guidelines, specifically, to determine the total amount of losses for which Arledge is responsible and establish whether he was an “organizer” of the illegal operation. Bramlette said this morning that Arledge was found not to be in control of the actions of others.

Also debated was how a Nov. 1, 2001, amendment to federal sentencing guidelines would play into Arledge’s sentencing. Bramlette found that some of the illegal activities, including conspiracy, occurred after the date, but they had been initiated before.

The sentencing date was then rescheduled for Aug. 27, but was postponed again. No specifics were given regarding that delay, but it had been reported that Marcie Koch, the wife of Arledge’s lead attorney, Karl Koch, died nine days earlier in Tucson, Ariz.

Arledge was the only attorney charged with knowing clients did not have legitimate claims to about $250,000 each from a nationwide settlement pool established by the drug’s maker.

The conviction of Arledge came after eight days of testimony from more than a dozen government witnesses, along with people who had pleaded guilty to falsified claims.

The defense called no witnesses and maintained that Arledge didn’t know the information was false and that prosecutors failed to prove he did.

Following the jury’s decision, Koch said he was “disappointed with the verdict” and “we look forward to the appeal.”

The jury found Arledge innocent of 17 counts of money laundering.

The prescription diet drug was pulled from the market in 1997 after research revealed it could cause heart problems. A maker, American Home Products, now Wyeth, established the fund for claimants.

The indictment listed goods and services it says Arledge bought using an estimated $8 million in funds obtained fraudulently from the settlement trust. FBI agents swarmed Arledge’s home following the indictment, while he was away, and seized some of his property.