Prosecutors said Bill Murray supported a lavish lifestyle with his clients' money.
SACRAMENTO, CA - The prominent accountant who stole at least $13 million from more than 50 clients apologized to them moments before receiving one of the harshest sentences for white collar crime in recent memory in Sacramento federal court.
William R. Murray, 56, was ordered by U.S. District Court Senior Judge Edward Garcia to serve 19 1/2 years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release.
Murray pleaded guilty in March to two mail fraud and tax charges for a long-running Ponzi scheme in which he converted clients' tax payments to his personal use and stole money they trusted him to invest.
News10 first reported the massive fraud last November before criminal charges were filed. Murray, a former IRS agent, frequently appeared on News10 to discuss tax and investment strategies.
Prior to Friday's sentencing, nine of Murray's victims described their losses to Garcia and implored him to impose the maximum sentence. One of the victims, Joyce Clifford, broke down in tears as she spoke of losing her home and life savings to Murray.
"It's difficult to realize there can be such rotten people in this world," said Clifford, 78. "He betrayed an innocent elderly person who trusted him."
One of the two criminal charges involved in the plea bargain was filed specifically for Clifford, and Murray's sentence was enhanced because of her age.
Murray stood alongside attorney Donald Heller during the entire proceeding, which lasted more than an hour. Murray wore an orange jumpsuit issued by the Butte County Jail where he had been housed under contract by the U.S. Marshal. Although he wore a shackle around his waist, his hands were not cuffed.
Other victims described how Murray had the ability to keep their trust even as the IRS was asking about missing tax payments.
"He was like my brother. We broke bread together," said William Ames, an El Dorado Hills electrician and inventor who lost as much as $1 million to Murray.
When asked by Garcia if he had anything to say before being sentenced, Murray offered the following apology but was quickly challenged by the judge.
"I deeply regret it, and it's something I will live with the rest of my life. I'm sorry for my actions," Murray told Garcia, with his back to his victims.
"This case calls out for an explanation," Garcia responded. "Why?"
Murray: "I started with the intention of paying back the money."
Garcia: "Don't give me that. You lived high on the hog."
Murray: "I always intended to repay everyone. I was not able to."
Murray was additionally ordered to pay more than $10 million in restitution to his victims. It's a figure, however, that appears to be theoretical. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said prosecutors have so far identified just $130,000 remaining from Murray's stolen assets.
by George Warren, GWarren@news10.net