NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The campaign manager for former Connecticut Congressman Christopher Shays was sentenced Tuesday to 37 months in prison for embezzling more than $250,000 in campaign funds from Shays.
Michael Sohn of Fairfield apologized at his sentencing for what he called "my careless and reckless actions." He pleaded guilty in March to charges of tax evasion and illegally converting campaign contributions to his own personal accounts.
Sohn, who must surrender Nov. 30, also was ordered to pay restitution of $252,424 to Shays' campaign and to pay $95,955 to the Internal Revenue Service for back taxes owed.
The judge recommended Sohn be allowed to participate in a 500-hour drug rehabilitation program. Sohn would be eligible for a one-year reduction off his sentence if the Bureau of Prisons accepts him into the program and he completes it.
"The sentence imposed today is appropriate as this defendant, for four years, violated the trust of a U.S. congressman, campaign co-workers, and every contributor to the campaign," said U.S. Attorney David Fein.
Federal prosecutors said Sohn used the money to buy his fiancee a $13,000 engagement ring and for other personal expenses, including car repairs, theater tickets, a hotel, bed, limo, and a professional baseball game.
An attorney for Shays' campaign committee said in a letter to the court that he believes the theft was even greater than the $252,000 cited by authorities. Sohn also used the stolen money to pay for vacations and gambling, according to the letter, which said the committee was forced to spend more than $300,000 to investigate the theft and for other expenses.
U.S. District Court Judge Mark Kravitz told Sohn he not only stole from the campaign but from contributors to Shays. He noted that Sohn was paid an annual salary of about $100,000, calling it a "king's ransom compared to what many people earn," and said Sohn took the money to enhance his lifestyle.
Sohn said in a recent court filing that he had a serious cocaine and marijuana problem at the time of the thefts, but has been drug free since his arrest.
Sohn's attorney, H. James Pickerstein, said he was not citing his drug use as an excuse and had not tried to minimize his crimes.
"It is an extraordinarily serious offense," Pickerstein said.
Sohn is broke and unemployed and no chance of getting a job, Pickerstein said.
He was Shays' campaign manager during Shays' failed 2008 re-election bid.