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David Duke Gets 15-Month Sentence for Fraud

Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke was sentenced Wednesday to more than a year in prison and a $10,000 fine for bilking his supporters and cheating on his taxes.

Duke pleaded guilty in December to tax and mail fraud; the sentence was the same one agreed to in his plea bargain.

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said Duke must report to prison by April 15. Federal guidelines require that he serve at least 85 percent of the 15-month sentence.

The mail fraud charge grew out of what prosecutors described as a six-year scheme to bilk thousands of followers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars through a direct mail campaign. Prosecutors have not said exactly how much Duke is accused of bilking.

Duke, 52, had told supporters that he was in danger of losing his home and savings. But prosecutors said he sold his home for a profit during that period, held numerous investment accounts and gambled away much of his take at casinos in Mississippi, Las Vegas and the Bahamas.

Duke must pay the fine immediately and cooperate with the Internal Revenue Service, including paying money he owes for 1998 taxes.

Duke, a former state representative, also pleaded guilty to making a false statement on his 1998 income tax return, declaring that he made $18,831 in 1998, rather than the actual $65,034.

Just how much, if any, Duke owes will be hashed out between the IRS and Duke's accountant, said James McPherson, Duke's longtime lawyer and friend. "I don't know, David doesn't know and the IRS doesn't know" the amount, McPherson said.

Duke said he would speak more freely about the investigation and charges after his release from prison in 2004. "When I'm out of the jaws of the federal government I'll have a lot to say," he said.

He said while in prison he plans to "continue my life's work -- my reading, my research."