(Bloomberg) -- British billionaire Joe Lewis would be sufficiently punished with less than a year and a half in prison for passing secret corporate information to his private pilots and girlfriend, US prosecutors told a federal judge ahead of the 87-year-old’s sentencing later this week.

Lewis pleaded guilty in January to three counts of securities fraud, six months after the Tavistock Group founder was charged with giving tips about four publicly traded companies between 2019 and 2021.

The plea deal will likely whittle down any sentence for Lewis, who faced as long as 45 years in prison if convicted at trial. His attorneys sought an expedited sentencing due to his age. 

The government said in a court filing late Monday that while federal sentencing guidelines call for a term of 18 to 24 months in prison, Lewis deserves leniency given his age, his significant health issues and his voluntary decision to travel to the US to accept responsibility for his crimes.

“Punishment may come in many forms,” prosecutors wrote. “In addition to any restrictions on his liberty that the court may impose, the defendant will be subject to hefty financial penalties and significant restrictions on his future business activities.”

Lewis would be one of the oldest white-collar criminals to be incarcerated should he receive prison time. 

John Rigas, the now-deceased former chief executive officer of Adelphia Communications Corp., was 83 when he was sentenced in 2005 to 15 years, while Harald Joachim von der Goltz, a founder of Boston Capital Ventures, got four years at age 83 in 2020 for fraud and money-laundering in connection with a tax-evasion scheme revealed by the Panama Papers. Bernie Madoff, the Manhattan investment adviser who promised stellar returns to his A-list clients and instead defrauded them of more than $19 billion in history’s largest Ponzi scheme, died in prison in 2021 at age 82.

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Lewis’ lawyers have asked US District Judge Jessica Clarke to spare him from prison time, citing his advanced age and his cooperation with prosecutors. Probation officials have recommended he spend three years on supervised release. His attorneys echoed that and proposed he pay a $5 million fine.

In 2019, according to his criminal indictment, Lewis learned from Australian Agricultural’s board of directors that the beef producer had suffered huge losses due to flooding and that insurance wouldn’t cover its cattle losses. Lewis passed on the information to his pilots, Patrick O’Connor and Bryan Waugh, and urged them to sell their stock in the company. 

In the same year, he allegedly told his then-girlfriend, Carolyn Carter, to purchase shares of Solid Biosciences, a biotech company, after learning about an upcoming private investment and clinical trial. The girlfriend paid $700,000 — “nearly all of her available funds” — to buy 150,000 shares, according to the indictment. She sold the shares and made a $849,000 profit, prosecutors said.

On another occasion, prosecutors say, a Mirati Therapeutics board member, who also worked at Lewis’ biotech hedge fund, told the billionaire about confidential, positive results from the company’s clinical trial. Lewis then told Carter to buy shares in Mirati ahead of the result announcement. He also loaned his pilots $500,000 each to make similar investments, according to the the indictment.

The plea overshadows what has otherwise been a lengthy and successful career for Lewis. Born and raised in the UK, Lewis turned his father’s catering business into a chain of themed restaurants before turning to currency trading in the late 70s. 

He moved to the Bahamas to avoid UK taxes and made hundreds of millions betting against the British pound and Mexican peso in the 90s. He later diversified into real estate and other investments with the formation of Tavistock Group. He’s best known in England for his previous ownership of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.

O’Connor pleaded guilty late last month. Waugh has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go to trial in June.

One of Lewis’ companies, Broad Bay Ltd., pleaded guilty to securities fraud and agreed to pay a $50 million penalty as part of a deal with the government. 

The case is USA v Lewis, 23-cr-00370, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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