Sentencing details for Bridges to come later

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 10, 2012

By Nathan Hardin
CHARLOTTE — After pleading guilty in federal court Thursday to money laundering and securities fraud, a Salisbury man will remain free for several months before receiving his sentence.
John Knox Bridges stood accused of running a $2.3 million Ponzi scheme that extracted money from individuals and organizations, including the foundation that supports the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer.
During a hearing Thursday morning, U.S. Magistrate Judge David Keesler accepted a plea agreement between Bridges and federal prosecutors that calls for Bridges to spend between 57 and 71 months in prison and pay full restitution to his victims.
The charges to which Bridges pleaded guilty carry structured-sentence maximum of 30 years, but his cooperation with prosecutors led them to ask for the lower sentence. However, the judge is not bound by the terms of that agreement in sentencing Bridges.
Sentencing typically takes at least six months after a plea is entered, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Bridges was accused of taking $600,000 from the N.C. Transportation Museum Foundation while he was a board member. Bridges later reimbursed the organization, but Roy Johnson, president of the foundation, said he’s glad to see some a conclusion to the crime.
“We’re satisfied that he’s finally admitted to what he’s done and that he’s going to be punished accordingly and make restitution to everybody like he did us,” Johnson said Thursday.
Foundation members spoke with investigators more than a year and a half ago, Johnson said, answering questions and handing over paperwork.
Punishing Bridges for the “emotional toll,” Johnson said, is difficult to determine.
But Johnson said he believes the court sees the restitution of victims as the biggest priority.
“It’s hard for me to equate years in prison with the damage that was done,” Johnson said. “I think we’re all still shocked that Knox was able to be capable of what he did and that he did it to so many people.”
Bridges will now wait for the U.S. Probation Office to file a presentence investigation report, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Lia Bantavani.
The report will detail “charges against the defendant, the offense conduct, the defendant’s criminal, mental and physical history, the impact of the crimes on victims and all sentencing options available to the court under the statutory framework of the charge of conviction,” Bantavani wrote in an e-mail.
After both the defense and prosecution have a chance to contest the report, the probation officer will have a chance to submit final input for the report.
Bridges will then be sentenced at a final hearing.
Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.
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