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Former media mogul Conrad Black sentenced

  • Story Highlights
  • Conrad Black sentenced to 6 years
  • Convicted of defrauding shareholders and skimming $6.1 million from company
  • Black says he will appeal his conviction
  • Judge: Black violated his duty and risked everything he had
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CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- A federal judge Monday sentenced former media tycoon Conrad Black to 6 years in prison for his role in defrauding shareholders and skimming cash from his Hollinger International newspaper conglomerate.

Black, 63, was convicted in July of mail fraud and obstruction of justice. He has vowed to appeal his conviction and has 10 days to begin the process.

Black was also ordered to pay a $125,000 fine.

"This sentence will send a message that you do not engage in this type of behavior," said U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve. "The court's sentence should adequately deter others from engaging in this conduct."

"Mr. Black, you have violated your duty to Hollinger and its shareholders," the judge said. "I frankly cannot understand how someone of your stature can engage in the conduct you did and risk everything."

His associates -- Peter Atkinson of Oakville, Ontario, Jack Boultbee of Victoria, British Columbia, and Mark Kipnis of Northbrook, Illinois -- were also due to be sentenced on Monday. Atkinson, Kipnis and Boultbee were also convicted of mail fraud.

Black left the court without speaking to reporters. Earlier, his attorneys said Black was relieved with the sentence.

Prosecutors had initially recommended that all four defendants serve 15 to 20 years in prison.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said he was pleased with the outcome. "Maybe I'm just dumb," he said, "but having to spend six and a half years in prison doesn't sound too relieving to me."

In the early 1990s, Hollinger International controlled 60 percent of Canadian newspapers in addition to hundreds of dailies worldwide, including the Chicago Sun Times, the Montreal Gazette, Britain's Daily Telegraph and the Jerusalem Post.

Black resigned as chairman and chief executive officer of Hollinger in 2004 after an internal investigation into shareholders' complaints that he and other executives were lining their pockets with company funds.

Weeks after his November 2004 resignation, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil fraud lawsuit against Black, as well as Hollinger International's former deputy chairman and chief operating officer, David Radler, and Hollinger International.

A year later, Fitzgerald brought eight criminal fraud charges against Black, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Federal prosecutors said Black and the other defendants defrauded shareholders of Hollinger International by collecting "non-compete" payments from the sales of media holdings. In a non-compete, the seller agrees -- in exchange for a payment -- not to compete in the buyer's market.

The prosecution argued that the payments ended up in the pockets of the defendants, as tax-free bonuses, instead of in the company coffers.

During the trial at the U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois, which began in March, U.S. federal prosecutors described the lavish, eccentric lifestyles of Black and his wife, Lady Barbara Amiel, a journalist.

Black renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2001 to become a British citizen and was awarded a place in the British House of Lords. He took the title Lord Black of Crossharbour.

The judge ruled that Black will serve his sentence in a U.S. prison, not a Canadian prison as the defense has requested.

She gave Black 12 weeks to surrender to federal authorities and recommended that he do so at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida as requested by defense attorneys.

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A date for the surrender will be set later. If Black fails to do so, Judge St. Eve said, he will forfeit his properties in New York and Florida.

The court ruled in July that Boultbee and Atkinson will be allowed to return to Canada to serve their prison sentences. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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