Investment adviser sentenced to 8 years He cheated clients out of $4.7 million

November 07, 1995|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A former Annapolis investment adviser was sentenced yesterday to eight years in prison for bilking 140 investors of $4.7 million over a two-year period.

Joshua Fry, 60, formerly of Beacon Court, also was ordered by Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. to pay back $3.8 million owed to his victims.

But the judge acknowledged that they were unlikely to recover their money.

"My experience has been whenever the restitution is over six figures, the victims have never gotten a penny," Judge Thieme told Fry.

Steven A. Allen, Fry's lawyer, said his client initially diverted $250,000 from customer accounts in 1991 and tried to make up the money by trading in risky stock options that lost more money.

"He got behind the eight ball and he was never able to make up what he lost," Mr. Allen told the judge.

He asked that Fry be allowed to earn back the money after serving a three-year sentence by publishing a financial newsletter and offering free advice.

The prosecutor, who sought a 10-year sentence, was appalled by the request.

"There's something obscene about someone who steals $4 million and then asks to be released, saying that he wants to repay the money these people lost," said Carolyn Henneman, an assistant attorney general. "These people didn't lose their money, he stole it."

Fry, a financial adviser who dealt in securities, pleaded guilty Aug. 1 to felony theft, fraudulent securities practices and failing to file a 1992 state income tax return.

As a part of his plea, he agreed never again to offer financial advice for profit.

Fry, jailed in January since he was arrested in Ohio living under an assumed name, told the judge he has suffered considerably and has learned from his crimes.

He has a heart condition that will require bypass surgery, can no longer work in his field, has become estranged from his two adult sons, and his wife of 18 years has divorced him, he said.

"My life is a shambles. My reputation ruined beyond repair," he said, choking back tears.

But some of Fry's victims said they believed the tears might have been another attempt at a con job.

"I've learned a lot of hard lessons in the past few years," said one victim, who lost $30,000 and requested anonymity. "I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I'm reluctant to do that in this case."

Another victim, Darian George, 49, of Potomac, said that he invested -- and lost -- $200,000 after listening to Fry for a year on his weekly radio talk show, "Exercise Your Options," broadcast on WPGC, a Washington-area radio station.

"He was a highly talented man, who actually knew what he was doing," Mr. George said. "I never really anticipated that he would cheat me."

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