A man was sentenced by a Florida judge to a record 845 years in a February 2000 conviction. Sholam Weiss, who is not due for release from federal prison until 2754, is now seeking to appeal the sentence. Weiss and six co-defendants were convicted in a scheme that led to the 1994 collapse of National Heritage Life Insurance Company that cost almost 25,000 individuals their life savings. Weiss was convicted on all 93 counts of pocketing $125 million and sentenced to what the Department of Justice indicates is the longest sentence ever for a white-collar criminal.
During the trial but prior to jury deliberations, Weiss fled the country and eventually ended up in Austria where he was captured in 2000. The Austrian appeal panel initially declined to extradite Weiss based on the extradition being "contrary to human rights." Attorneys for Weiss contend that Austrian authorities changed their mind only after federal prosecutors said Weiss would be re-sentenced and allowed to appeal his sentence. Attorneys for Weiss argue that the Austrian authorities made extradition contingent on the re-sentencing and right to appeal.
Federal prosecutors claim that no formal agreement existed regarding Weiss re-sentencing. They contend there were simply diplomatic discussions regarding Weiss's sentence. Assistant U.S. Attorney Judy K. Hunt said that Weiss was trying to use his flight from justice "as a sword to escape punishment for his extraordinarily serious criminal offenses." Weiss has been allowed to appeal and is awaiting the decision of the appellate panel that could come within months. Hunt told the panel not to grant Weiss the opportunity to "re-escape."
Florida authorities are treating white-collar crimes very seriously, said Florida white-collar criminal lawyer John Musca. These crimes usually involve theft by deception as opposed to crimes of force. In cases involving large financial schemes that affect the financial well-being of many people and millions of dollars, the sentences can be extremely lengthy and even exceed sentences in many crimes involving force. If one is charged with a white-collar crime, an experienced white-collar criminal lawyer is essential given the complexity of the cases and evidence, said Musca.