Publisher gets six months in jail for book fraud caseBy Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | April 12,2013BENNINGTON — A Manchester man who was accused of defrauding at least 20 people of about $200,000 by promising to publish or promote their books was sentenced to serve six months in prison after pleading guilty earlier this week to 16 felonies and four misdemeanors.
Peter Campbell-Copp, 63, of Manchester, was given a five-to-20-year sentence Thursday by Judge Cortland Corsones but all of that time was suspended and Campbell-Copp was given a split sentence. Beginning Thursday, Campbell-Copp is to serve 12 months but the last six months of that time will be spent in home confinement.
Campbell-Copp was also ordered to make restitution to his victims, many of whom were in the Bennington criminal courtroom Thursday, and he will not be allowed to work in publishing.
On Monday, Campbell-Copp pleaded guilty to 15 felony counts of false pretenses, one felony count of theft of service, and four misdemeanor counts of issuing bad checks. His plea came one day before a jury would have been drawn for his trial which had been expected to last three weeks.
The accusations that Campbell-Copp had accepted as much as $8,500 from people across Vermont in return for a promise to publish and promote a book date back to 2006 but the first charges were filed against him in July 2011. New charges were added as recently as November.
Campbell-Copp addressed the court before he was sentenced. He said he had waited years for the opportunity because he wanted to apologize to his victims before but was forbidden by the court from communicating with them while the case was pending.
“First, I would like to apologize for the agony that I’ve caused so many people, so many people that I was working to serve. ... Today, I feel like I’ve failed everybody. I feel like I’ve failed my friends. I would like to apologize for the financial mistakes that I’ve made, for the promises that I did not keep and for the trust that has been broken,” he said.
Campbell-Copp said the charges against him had cost him his wife, his home and his job.
After two days of hearing from people who described their experiences with Campbell-Copp, the state asked Corsones to sentence Campbell-Copp to eight to 40 years. Bennington County Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Christina Rainville called his actions the “worst Ponzi scheme I have seen in my career.”
James Dingley, who represented Campbell-Copp, asked the judge to remember his client was almost 64, had no criminal record and would have less opportunity to repay his victims if he wasn’t free to work.
After the sentencing, Howard Krieger of Burlington, who had illustrated a children’s book that his late mother, Harriet Krieger, had written, said he was not surprised by the sentence.
“My feeling is, to expect restitution, monetary, from this guy is all but impossible,” he said.
Krieger said because of Campbell-Copp’s age and the fact that he will now have 16 felonies on his record make it unlikely his family will be repaid.
“After all is said and done, we feel good in that the system kind of worked, although it didn’t work fairly, and he’s prevented from doing this again,” he said.
Peter Italia of Rutland called Campbell-Copp a “predator” during his testimony Thursday and asked the judge to impose some jail time.
Corsones said he considered Campbell-Copp’s age and record before deciding on a sentence. While Corsones said he didn’t believe Campbell-Copp had run a Ponzi scheme or gotten rich from his crimes, he also dismissed the suggestion that it was a “case of bad business judgment.”
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