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'CHiPS' TV star Larry Wilcox gets probation in stock fraud case

January 28, 2011 |  1:35 pm

Larry Wilcox, the former “CHiPs” TV star who admitted to conspiring to defraud investors by manipulating penny stocks, was sentenced Friday to three years of probation.

Wilcox could have faced up to five years in prison, but the Florida federal judge who heard the case decided to be lenient.

From the Associated Press in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.:

U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn imposed the sentence on Wilcox, 63. Wilcox also must perform 500 hours of community service and pay a fine of $100.

"I think we got an individual who is truly remorseful," Cohn said. "He should not be punished because of his celebrity status."

His attorney, William Richey, said the sentence was "absolutely appropriate" because of his client's lifetime of [community] service.

"The offense for which he pleaded guilty exists as an aberration in what has otherwise been an exemplary life," Richey wrote in court papers, asking the court to consider that Wilcox was depressed and "could barely put food on the table for his family" at the time.

Jon Burstein of the South Florida Sun Sentinel has more from the courtroom here.

Wilcox, who lives in the West Hills area of L.A., starred as Jonathan "Jon" Baker, a California Highway Patrol motorcyle officer, on the hit show "CHiPs" in the late 1970s and early '80s. "CHiPs,” which ran from 1977 to 1983, also starred Erik Estrada as Francis "Ponch" Poncherello.

Wilcox The Justice Department filed criminal charges against Wilcox and nine other penny-stock promoters in October, alleging that they had agreed to pay kickbacks to investors in classic “pump and dump” schemes: The cooperating investors would buy shares of the promoters’ thinly traded penny stocks, with the goal of driving up the prices in hopes of luring other investors into the shares.

Typically, that’s a way for the promoters to then dump more of their own shares on unsuspecting investors.

What the promoters didn’t know was that the investors they were paying off were government agents operating a sting.

Wilcox had headed a company called UC Hub Group Inc., a penny-stock firm that listed its business as “precious metals, gems, and the oil and gas industry.”

-- Tom Petruno

Photo: Larry Wilcox in his "CHiPs" days, circa 1981. Credit: Associated Press

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