Convicted Hedge Fund Manager Commits Suicide

May 26 2008 | 1:32pm ET

Convicted of 47 counts of fraud and money laundering and facing more than 700 years in prison, hedge fund manager Kirk Wright committed suicide in his jail cell on Saturday.

Wright was found dead in his Union City, Ga., cell on Sunday. The 37-year-old hanged himself, the Fulton County medical examiner’s office said.

According to prosecutors, Wright’s firm, Marietta, Ga.-based International Management Associates collected more than $155 million. Wright allegedly returned $70 million to clients as part of a Ponzi scheme, lost the $31 million he did invest, and used millions more to enrich himself. Much of the money remains missing. Prosecutors said he kept up the scam by sending phony brokerage reports to his clients, but the scheme began to unravel when former football star Steve Atwater and several other NFL players sought to redeem their investments.

Wright’s checks to the players bounced, and he fled in late 2005. He was arrested in Miami Beach, Fla., last May.

“It’s a tragic deal all around,” Atwater said of his one-time friend’s death. Michael O’Leary, Wright’s lawyer, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he was “shocked and saddened.”

“It’s a very sad state of affairs and I feel very sad for his family,” he said.

Wright, who was to be sentenced on Aug. 26, maintained his innocence even after his conviction last week. He claimed the losses were the result of mismanagement, and not fraud.

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