Former FDA Chief Crawford Gets Supervised Probation, Fine for Stock Scandal

A judge on Tuesday sentenced former Food and Drug Administration chief Lester Crawford to three years' supervised probation with fines of roughly $90,000 for lying about stocks he owned in companies regulated by his agency.

Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson's sentence spares Crawford jail time but is stiffer than the punishment of $50,000 proposed by federal prosecutors for the former head of the FDA.

"While the total fine exceeds what the parties agreed to, the fine is well below the maximum under the statute," Robinson said in a 90-minute hearing in which she sometimes questioned the level of Crawford's remorse.

Crawford pleaded guilty last October to charges of having a conflict of interest and false reporting of information about stocks that he and his wife owned. Beginning in 2002, Crawford filed seven incorrect financial reports with a government ethics office and Congress.

Crawford did, however, pay taxes on the dividends and the options he exercised, according to prosecutors.

The two charges — conflict of interest and false reporting — are misdemeanors and each carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

"Dr. Crawford has agreed to take responsibility for his actions," his lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder, wrote in court filings earlier this month. She noted that prosecutors acknowledged there was no evidence that Crawford had schemed to defraud or misuse his office for personal gain.

"The stigma of his conviction will follow him the rest of his life," Gelder wrote.

In filings, prosecutors say the proposed $50,000 fine was appropriate. They noted it would exceed the roughly $39,000 that Crawford and his wife, Cathy, made from exercising options and in dividends from illegally held stocks in food, beverage and medical companies, which included Embrex Inc. and Pepsico Inc.

Crawford also was cooperative once prosecutors began their criminal investigation in late 2005, said assistant U.S. Attorney Howard Sklamberg.

Crawford, a veterinarian and food-safety expert, abruptly resigned from the FDA in September 2005 but gave no reason for leaving. He had held the job for two months, following his confirmation by the Senate.