It all started at the annual congressional picnic on the South Lawn of the White House last summer.
Congressman Chris Collins, a board member of Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian drugmaker, got an email from the company's CEO with some bad news. The multiple sclerosis drug key to the business had failed a drug trial. Federal prosecutors say within minutes, Collins tipped off his son, who then passed on the confidential information to others.
Altogether, seven people allegedly dumped company stock before the news became public five days later and the stock value plummeted. Altogether, they managed to avoid $768,000 in losses.
"Congressman Collins, who by virtue of his office helps to write the laws of our nation, acted as if the law didn't apply to him," said Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the southern district.
Collins and two others, including his son, Cameron, were indicted in the scheme. He turned himself in in Manhattan on Wednesday morning, and appeared in federal court, where he pleaded not guilty and was released.
Collins was an early and enthusiastic supporter of President Donald Trump and is up for re-election in November. Berman said politics did not enter into the decision making.
"That being said, we are cognizant of the prudential concerns surrounding an election. But you know, here we are months away from the election, those concerns do not apply," he said.
Late Wednesday, Collins in a news conference said he will continue running, and said his only goal in supporting Innate for the past 15 years was to find a cure for secondary progressive multiple sclerosis.
"When it became clear that the drug I and others believed in fell short of our hopes and expectations, I held on to my shares rather than sell them," Collins said. "As a result, the significant investment I made in the company worth millions of dollars were wiped out."
The Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, also filed securities fraud charges against Collins and several others Wednesday. In the criminal case, he faces 11 counts including conspiracy, wire fraud, securities fraud and lying to federal agents, most of which carry a sentence of up to 20 years.