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Rep. Collins pleads not guilty to insider trading

By Susan McFarland and Danielle Haynes
Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., was arrested Wednesday on insider trading charges, federal prosecutors announced. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/571d6bad542b0288f0b978c99a05ba70/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., was arrested Wednesday on insider trading charges, federal prosecutors announced. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 8 (UPI) -- Rep. Chris Collins, a Republican from New York, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to insider trading charges hours after his arrest in Manhattan.

Collins, 68, appeared in Manhattan federal court where he entered a not-guilty plea to 13 counts of securities fraud, wire fraud and false statements. The case involved Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian biotech company. for which Collins served as a board member.

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The congressman appeared in his home district in Buffalo Wednesday evening and promised to defend himself against the "meritless" charges.

"I believe I acted properly and within the law at all times," Collins said. "Throughout my tenure in Congress, I have followed all rules and ethical guidelines.

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"I will mount a vigorous defense in court to clear my name."

He promised to remain on the ballot for re-election in November.

"I am proud to represent the people of #NY27. The charges being brought against me are meritless and I intend to fight to clear my name. I will continue to work hard for the people of #NY27 and earn your vote this November," he tweeted.

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Also charged with insider trading in the indictment were Collins' son, Cameron Collins, and Stephen Zarsky, the father of Cameron Collins' fiancée, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York.

In October, a congressional ethics investigation determined there was "a substantial reason to believe" Rep. Collins violated federal law when he promoted stock in Innate Immunotherapeutics using insider information. The probe made a similar finding about a 2013 meeting the congressman attended at the National Institutes of Health, where he asked staff to meet with the Australian company about clinical trial designs.

The Office of Congressional Ethics recommended the House ethics committee dismiss a third charge against Rep. Collins regarding a discount he received on a private sale of Innate stock because he was a member of Congress.

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Rep. Collins, one of President Donald Trump's strongest and earliest congressional allies, remains under investigation by the committee, which has the power to sanction lawmakers.

According to the indictment, after Rep. Collins learned a trial regarding a drug to treat multiple sclerosis failed, he contacted his son, who traded on the information. Prosecutors say Cameron Collins then passed the information along to Zarsky, who made a trade.

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The trades allowed Rep. Collins, his son, and Zarsky to avoid $768,000 in losses, according to the indictment.

The congressman, who resigned in April from the Innate board, has denied wrongdoing.

"Throughout my tenure in Congress I have followed all rules and ethical guidelines when it comes to my personal investments," Rep. Collins said in an statement when he resigned. "I was elected to Congress based upon my success in the private sector, and my willingness to use that experience every day to facilitate an environment that creates economic opportunity and jobs."

Collins' attorneys said they plan to "mount a vigorous defense to clear his good name."

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