Prosecutors seek 145 years in prison for lawyer

A prominent Manhattan lawyer trained at Harvard and Yale universities who admitted defrauding hedge funds of more than $400 million should be sentenced to 145 years in prison, prosecutors told a judge Wednesday.

Prosecutors cited the privileged education and his comfortable upbringing as they urged the maximum sentence for 59-year-old Marc Dreier. His lawyer, Gerald Shargel, said a sentence of between 10 and 12 1/2 years in prison was appropriate.

“Dreier could have pursued a rewarding and productive life as a lawyer, serving clients and the law, with compensation in the top few percent of the general population,” prosecutors said in papers filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

“Instead, Dreier decided to seek vast personal riches and prestige through a life of fraud and through dishonor to his profession,” they wrote.

They noted that Judge Jed Rakoff, who is scheduled to sentence Dreier next Monday, has already said he should be “ranked with those who have committed some of the most egregious frauds in history.”

Last week, disgraced money manager Bernard Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison after admitting he carried on a Ponzi scheme for at least two decades that cost thousands of investors tens of billions of dollars.

Dreier, who remains under house arrest, carried out his fraud over a seven-year period by distributing phony client and accounting firm documents to his customers and by impersonating clients in person and on the phone and recruiting others to join his charades, prosecutors said.

They said statements by witnesses show that Dreier’s fraud began in early 2002 despite his statement to the U.S. Probation Office that he began the fraud in early 2004.

Prosecutors say Dreier lost more than $400 million as he fraudulently obtained as much as $740 million through deceit.

They said he committed the fraud “simply to satisfy his own greed and vanity” and they noted his accumulation of numerous expensive assets. Authorities say his lavish lifestyle included millions of dollars in artwork, beachfront homes on both coasts and an $18.5 million yacht. A court-appointed receiver said Dreier had little cash left when he was arrested in early December.

Shargel said a sentence should be rational and proportionate.

“As colossal frauds capture national headlines, sentences for white collar offenders must not become disproportionately long,” he said.

He said Dreier seeks “the opportunity to still have some meaningful life beyond incarceration.”

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.