We Just Released Someone Sentenced To 835 Years In Prison [One Cracked Fact]
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Criminals have received some mind-bogglingly long sentences over the years, with a few of them sentenced to hundreds of lifetimes in prison. Usually, it's because they killed a whole lot of people. The single longest sentence we've been able to track down, however, belonged to someone who killed no one. Her crime was purely about money.
If you're guessing that the criminal we're talking about received 835 years in prison (because you read the title above), good guess, but no, it was longer than that—we'll get to the guy sentenced to 835 years in a second. First, we want to tell you about Thai fraudster Chamoy Thipyaso, who was sentenced to ... wait for it ... 141,078 years in prison.
Thipayaso was convicted in Thailand in 1989 for a decades-long pyramid scheme, which defrauded millions from 16,000 people. If you have trouble tallying how even that many individual counts can add up to 141,078 years, maybe we should mention that some of her victims were members of the Thai royal family, so she was bound to be sentenced to the longest time possible. Still, this was just a symbolic sentence. A separate law said no one in Thailand could be imprisoned for more than 20 years for fraud, so Thipayaso was a free woman after less than eight years.
Run down past Thipayaso on the list of history's longest sentences, and you hit a bunch of those murderers we talked about. Then you hit Mr. 835 years, the con man Sholam Weiss, convicted in 1999. Like Chamoy Thipayaso, he put together a massive fraud scheme, this one robbing some 35,000 people of $420 million. These people were all customers of a life insurance company Weiss looted and destroyed, and while dozens of other criminals had a hand in the scam, Weiss made off with about half the money all by himself.
His was the biggest federal sentence ever handed down in the US, and the biggest in the US for any white collar crime. An 835-year sentence seemed bizarre, no matter how much money he'd stolen. Bernie Madoff, for comparison, got only 150 years, despite stealing 20 times what Weiss stole. Or maybe more than 20 times—investment numbers are tricky to add up, because a lot of that money is just imaginary.
So a lot of people pushed for Weiss' sentence to be commuted. And so it was, on January 19 of this year, by outgoing president Donald Trump. The commutation was also controversial, since Weiss was hardly a model prisoner. He went on the run after his trial and had to be picked up in Austria years later. So, claimed angry people, 835 years was a lot, but maybe 18 years in prison was too little. Maybe he could have got 19 years, at least? Or 19 and a half?
For more criminal tales, see also:
Top image: Lexjuris/Wiki Commons