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Florida man jailed owing $94 million

ORLANDO, Fla., Nov. 23 (UPI) -- A business manager in Florida who missed his sentencing hearing twice and who owes $94 million in restitution was sentenced to 15 years in prison Wednesday.

Michael Burgess, 69, former manager of Prosperity International, pleaded guilty in May to one count of conspiracy and one of money laundering as his part in a scheme in which he claimed he had years of experience raising funds for large development projects, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.

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Burgess and his partners told clients they would place most of their money in an escrow account, while they secured funds from a large, international bank. But clients' money never went into an account and the clients were never paid back, prosecutors said.

Burgess was scheduled for a sentence of five to six and a half years, but twice missed hearings for sentencing, which provoked prosecutors into asking for a longer sentence.

Twice in September, Burgess missed hearings. The first time, he checked into a hospital in Atlanta. In the second incident, he missed the court date. Several days later, on Sept. 23, he barricaded himself in a hotel room in Gwinnett County, Ga., where he was extricated by a SWAT team after a prolonged standoff with police.

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"He deserves no leniency. He's a con-artist," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg in asking for the longer sentence.

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