An actor who starred as one of two California highway officers in the 1970s TV series "CHiPs" was sentenced Friday to serve three years probation for conspiring to commit securities fraud.
U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn imposed the sentence on Larry Wilcox, 63, who had faced a maximum prison term of five years. Wilcox also must perform 500 hours of community service and pay a fine of $100.
"I think we got an individual who is truly remorseful," Cohn said. "He should not be punished because of his celebrity status."
Wilcox played Officer Jonathan "Jon" Baker on the show, opposite Erik Estrada as Officer Frank 'Ponch' Poncherello. Wilcox left the show a year before it ended its NBC run from 1977-83.
He wiped away tears as he addressed the court before sentencing.
"I spent 63 years putting my signature on my life," Wilcox said after clearing his throat to speak to the court.
"I betrayed my core values with what I did. I am deeply sorry," he said.
Wilcox, of West Hills, Calif., declined to comment after sentencing. He was surrounded by almost a dozen friends and family who flew in from California to support him.
His attorney, William Richey, said the sentence was "absolutely appropriate" because of his client's lifetime of service.
"The offense for which he pleaded guilty exists as an aberration in what has otherwise been an exemplary life," Richey wrote in court papers, asking the court to consider that Wilcox was depressed and "could barely put food on the table for his family" at the time.
Wilcox was involved in one of several kickback operations run by more than a dozen small-company stock promoters, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Federal regulators said the promoters were caught in an FBI undercover sting operation in South Florida offering to pay kickbacks to pension-fund managers or stockbrokers for using clients funds to buy penny stocks.
Wilcox cooperated with federal authorities, providing information to help identity the roles of two others involved in the scheme, according to federal prosecutors.
"We believe his conduct substantially assisted us," said U.S. Attorney Ryan O'Quinn.
Wilcox pleaded guilty in November to securities fraud conspiracy and recently filed for bankruptcy.