Former Minnesota Vikings tight end Stu Voigt was sentenced Thursday in federal court to six months in prison and ordered to pay a $100,000 fine for his role in a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme, a sentence that was far less than what government prosecutors sought.
U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz said Voigt, 68, betrayed the public’s trust in his role as board chairman of a Bloomington bank by approving a loan to his business partner, businessman Jeffrey Gardner, while failing to disclose millions of dollars that Gardner already owed Voigt. In February, a jury found Voigt guilty of one count of bank fraud in a scheme that prosecutors say cost investors millions of dollars.
“There is no explanation short of greed to explain why Mr. Voigt betrayed the trust placed so thoroughly in him,” Schiltz said during Thursday’s sentencing hearing. The judge then added that Voigt’s actions were “exactly the kind of conduct that triggered the Great Recession.”
In court pleadings and at Thursday’s hearing, attorneys for Voigt asked for leniency, arguing that his judgment was impaired by repeated head injuries he suffered over his career as a college and professional football player. Voigt, who played for the Vikings from 1970 to 1980, now suffers from a range of mental health problems, including post-concussive syndrome, headaches, depression and anxiety, his attorneys argued. “He has a headache every day of his life,” said Joseph Friedberg, his attorney.
Because of his “diminished mental capacity,” Voigt no longer remembers the incident that led to his conviction for bank fraud, Friedberg said at the hearing. “Judges want to hear remorse,” he said. “But there would be a terrible amount of hypocrisy if Mr. Voigt were to express remorse for what he did, when he can’t remember what he did.”
Federal prosecutors sought a far steeper sentence of 46 months in prison, but Schiltz granted leniency because he said Voigt could not have foreseen that the bank would not properly secure its interest in the loan that went sour, which was made a decade ago. As part of his sentencing order, the judge prohibited Voigt from any further involvement in banking or investing businesses.
Voigt’s sentencing ends a long and emotional federal court case that included testimony from victims who said they lost all their savings in Gardner’s companies. Gardner was sentenced to 90 months in federal prison at a separate sentencing hearing Wednesday.
Speaking before the judge, his hands shaking as he read a prepared statement, Voigt called it the “darkest day in my life,” and then added: “I have been hit hard my whole life, but this is by far the worst.”
Voigt was ordered to report to prison on Nov. 28, allowing him to spend Thanksgiving with his family.