Ex-Clinton fundraiser gets 12 years in prison

Associated Press |July 15, 2010

A wealthy Manhattan investment banker who was once a top fundraiser for Hillary Rodham Clinton and other big-name Democrats was sentenced Thursday to 12 years in prison for bank fraud.

Hassan Nemazee had reached a plea deal in March, admitting to three counts of bank fraud and one count of wire fraud. Judge Sidney Stein said he'll get out of prison in about a decade.

Nemazee was the national finance chairman of Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign. He also raised money for President Barack Obama and a long list of other prominent Democrats. He was Sen. John Kerry's New York finance chairman during his failed 2004 presidential run.

Prosecutors said Nemazee used fake collateral to obtain more than $290 million in loans from major banks.

An indictment said he forged signatures, concocted bogus account statements and established "virtual offices" to conceal a scam. It said he used proceeds from new loans to pay off older ones - a maneuver prosecutors called a Ponzi scheme.

In 1999, President Bill Clinton nominated Nemazee to be U.S. ambassador to Argentina, but the appointment was never confirmed by the Senate, in part because of concerns about Nemazee's business dealings.

Federal sentencing guidelines recommended up to 19½ years in prison. Stein said he showed leniency because "of Mr. Nemazee's positive characteristics, his charitable works, as well as his involvement in American political life."

Nemazee told the judge he blamed his crimes on "pride, ego, arrogance, self-image, self-importance. All these and more are reasons why I traveled down this destructive path."

He was ordered to surrender by the afternoon of Aug. 27.