A former Annapolis investment adviser was sentenced to eight years in prison yesterday for bilking 140 investors of $4.7 million over a two-year period.
Joshua Fry, 60, formerly of Beacon Court, also was ordered by Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. to pay back $3.8 million still owed to his victims.
But the judge acknowledged that they were unlikely to recover their money.
"My experience has been whenever the restitution is over six figures, the victims have never gotten a penny," Judge Thieme told Fry.
Steven A. Allen, Fry's lawyer, said his client initially diverted $250,000 from customer accounts in 1991 and tried to make up the money by trading in risky stock options that lost more money.
"He got behind the eightball and he was never able to make up what he lost," Mr. Allen told the judge.
He asked that Fry be allowed to earn back the money after serving a three-year sentence by publishing a financial newsletter and offering free advice.
The prosecutor, who sought a 10-year sentence, was appalled by the request.
"There's something obscene about someone who steals $4 million and then asks to be released, saying that he wants to repay the money these people lost," said Carolyn Henneman, an assistant attorney general. "These people didn't lose their money, he stole it."
Fry, a financial adviser who dealt in securities, pleaded guilty Aug. 1 to felony theft, fraudulent securities practices and failing to file a 1992 state income tax return.
As a part of his plea, he agreed never again to offer financial advice for profit.