Ex-producer for Houston, Kenny G sentenced in Ponzi case

AP News
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Posted: May 13, 2015 2:45 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — A former music producer who helped launch acts like Kenny G and Whitney Houston was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years behind bars for duping investors out of millions by claiming he had ties to West African diamond mines.

Prosecutors in federal court in Manhattan had sought more than two decades in prison for Charles Huggins in a scheme to steal more than $8 million from investors. They portrayed the 69-year-old defendant as a remorseless con man.

Huggins diverted investor money to one of his record labels and used it to pay for his $7,200-a-month Manhattan apartment, upkeep on a Mercedes Benz, restaurant tabs and clothes from expensive boutiques, according to court papers.

Huggins, of Edgewater, New Jersey, "acted out of pure greed, out of a desire to spend other people's hard-earned money on himself," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Imperatore.

The defense argued that the loss was really about $2.3 million, and that Huggins deserved no more than six years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein agreed that evidence at Huggins' 2014 trial exposed how he had done grievous harm to honest investors. But he called the government's request for a sentence between 22 and 27 years excessive and instead imposed the 10-year term.

The judge had received several defense submissions supporting Huggins, including a video from his ex-wife, soul singer Melba Moore. Asked on Wednesday if he wanted to speak for himself, Huggins stood briefly and responded, "Your honor, at this time I have nothing to say."

Huggins once managed Hush Productions and Orpheus Inc. in New York and worked with Houston and Kenny G early in their careers. When his music ventures hit hard times, he cooked up a scheme to convince dozens of investors across the United States that they would profit by letting him invest their savings in gold or diamonds mined in West Africa.

At his trial, one investor testified that she and her family invested $1.6 million after seeing his lavish apartment and meeting him at a hotel, where he described a personal relationship with the president of Liberia and showed her diamonds. Ex-NFL player Ken Hamlin also testified about being among the victims.

Besides funding his luxury lifestyle, a portion of the proceeds also "was used to make payments to other investors, as in a classic Ponzi scheme," court papers said.