July 13, 2012
…A Harris County judge on Friday ordered Jerry and Wynonne Hart, the former owners of the prestigious Galleria-area auction house Hart Galleries, to begin serving 14-year prison sentences for a $4 million Ponzi scheme, the couple’s attorneys said.
…More than three years after they pleaded guilty, a judge executed the mandate for the 2009 sentence during a court hearing Friday morning and took the Harts into custody, Hart and his 64-year-old wife, Wynonne, pleaded guilty in April 2009 to stealing more than $200,000, a first-degree felony.
…In exchange for the guilty plea, Stroud dropped other charges of theft and money laundering.
…Both sides agreed to let state District Judge Randy Roll decide the punishment.
…Attorneys for the couple argued they should be given probation and sent the judge 160 letters from prominent Houstonians asking for leniency.
…Instead, Roll called the couple “thieves” and said they were running a classic Ponzi scheme. They were using the newest customer’s money to pay off the oldest customer, he said before sentencing both to 14 years in prison.
…Three months later, with a new set of lawyers, the couple were granted a new trial. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office fought that ruling through the appeals courts, finally winning late last month and quashing the possibility of a new trial.