Former Rep. Chris Collins begins prison sentence

New York Republican to serve over two years at a federal minimum security camp

Former Rep. Chris Collins reported to prison Tuesday.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Former Rep. Chris Collins reported to prison Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted October 13, 2020 at 11:28am

Former Rep. Chris Collins began serving his 26-month prison term Tuesday at FPC Pensacola, a minimum security federal prison camp in Florida.

Collins’ arrival at the camp comes after four delays and just under nine months since he was sentenced in January for conspiring to commit securities fraud and making false statements to the FBI.

Collins, a New York Republican, 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.

Lawyers for the 70-year old Collins argued in an Oct. 1 emergency motion to push the date back yet again, citing health concerns, but the government pushed back. Prosecutors said it was safe for Collins to enter the prison and time for him to begin serving his time.

“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 his attorneys, Jon Barr and Jon New, said.

FPC Pensacola is about a nine-hour drive from Collins’ home in Marco Island, Florida where former 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.

The former lawmaker must also pay a fine of $200,000 for his felony crimes.

Collins served in Congress for seven years and represented the 27th District, which includes Buffalo. He was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for president.

Collins was on the board of directors of an Australian biotechnology company called Innate Immunotherapeutics. The company’s success was largely predicated on the success of MIS416, a drug designed to treat a type of Multiple Sclerosis.

The political downfall and felony actions of Collins started on June 22, 2017. That day— while present at the annual White House Congressional Picnic — Collins found out from the company’s CEO that the drug failed its clinical test, an ominous sign for the viability of the drug. The test failure was also sure to tank the stock price.

This information was not yet publicly available, but Collins used his insider knowledge to tip off his son, Cameron, so he and others close to the family could sell their stock and avoid catastrophic losses from the drug’s clinical failure.

When Innate publicly announced the trial failure of MIS416, the stock price plummeted by 92 percent.

Those close to Collins were able to avoid $768,000 in losses. Collins himself did not sell his shares and lost millions of dollars. Collins, one of the largest stockholders in the company, held nearly 17 percent of Innate’s shares; Cameron Collins held just over 2 percent.

Collins’ actions prompted the House to ban members from serving on boards of public companies.

Just after he was indicted, Collins called the charges “meritless,” but when he pleaded guilty in 2019, he struck a more sober and remorseful tone:

“And my constituents. As a member of Congress, I’ve tried to be a model citizen to them. The actions I took are anything but those that a model citizen would take, and I’m embarrassed and dismayed in putting my constituents in that position with this plea deal today,” Collins said.

“So your Honor, I am sorry with regret, and it’s nothing I can change at this point in time other than to take responsibility, own up to my actions, and that’s why I’m here right now, telling you the truth of exactly what happened.”