John B. Tenney, convicted last month on 27 counts of securities fraud, has been sentenced to a year in the Salt Lake County Jail.
Prosecutors had asked 3rd District Judge Tyrone E. Medley to give Tenney a 9-year Utah State Prison sentence for selling more than $4 million worth of stock under false pretenses.Instead, the judge chose to sentence the 53-year-old man to zero to three years in prison on each count, then suspend the terms in favor of the jail time.
"I want to see if there is something left in you worth saving - something that can be rehabilitated," the judge said Monday.
In addition to the jail time, Medley ordered Tenney to complete 1,000 hours of community service and then begin repaying his victims. Tenney will also be on intensive probation for six years.
"I am not a criminal," Tenney told the judge. "I am absolutely terrified of prison time. I can do a great deal more to repay society in terms of community service.
"This is not a case of willful intent. If I made some mistakes, I want to correct them," he pleaded. "I will do everything in my power to do right by these people."
Tenney enticed investors to buy stock in Cellwest Inc., a cellular telephone rental business, by telling them the company was about to go public. He said that would boost the value of the stock to $100 per share.
Tenney promised investors they could not lose because he would buy the stock back at double the value within six months.
The judge compared Tenney's actions to putting a gun in someone's back and robbing them.
"There is no question that incarceration is appropriate," Medley said. "You are a threat to the community."
But the judge added that Tenney's sentence would have been much harsher had the defendant benefited financially from his crimes.
"I'm not satisfied that money ended up in your pocket," Medley said.
"We don't know who got the money," Assistant Attorney General Charlene Barlow acknowledged.
Despite the sentence, Utah Attorney General Jan Graham praised the conviction and sentencing as a blow to white-collar crime.