MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - A former West Tennessee lawmaker is going to federal prison for more than 20 years. Larry Bates was sentenced Tuesday for scamming hundreds of victims out of millions of dollars.
The feds say Bates ran a gold coin Ponzi scheme that preyed on the elderly and Christians.
Bates will be 94 years old when he finishes serving his sentence. His lawyers told the judge, the 262-month punishment was essentially a death sentence. The judge said it's appropriate because hundreds of peoples' lives have been ruined when they lost their homes and their life savings.
At the time of the scam, Bates ran a Christian radio network called IRN. The government says Bates targeted Christians and the elderly in an "end of the world " scheme for more than a decade. The feds say Bates used the radio network as a way to promote and solicit the sale or purchase of gold and silver.
A jury convicted Bates of using his customers' money to fund personal expenses, such as a multi-million dollar home that sits on more than 100 acres, 80 miles east of Memphis.
In March, Bates told the Local I-Team he was innocent. "We're the victims of a giant conspiracy," said Bates. "These are totally bogus allegations."
During Tuesday's sentencing Bates made the same claims. The judge said what Bates did was inexcusable, and added Bates still has not taken responsibility or apologized for what he did.
Two of Bates son's and a daughter-in-law were also found guilty. They are also being sentenced this week.
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