Jon Harder hit the jackpot in January when then-President Donald Trump commuted his sentence as he was six years into a 15-year prison term.
But the Salem, Oregon, entrepreneur, who was convicted of defrauding 1,200 investors out of about $120 million, ran out of luck Tuesday in federal court. A judge ruled that Harder must repay more than $79 million in restitution to his investors.
The sudden 2008 collapse of Sunwest Management, Harder’s empire of senior living complexes, thrust him into prominence. Hundreds of mom-and-pop investors had put their retirement dollars into various Sunwest projects only to watch them slide into bankruptcy.
As Sunwest investors saw their monthly interest checks disappear, Sunwest-affiliated assisted living centers went bankrupt and struggled to pay for food for their residents. Prosecutors alleged Harder had continued to solicit investments even as his company was in serious trouble.
In 2015, Harder pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering charges and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, a notably lengthy sentence by the standards of white-collar offenders in Oregon.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon noted in his ruling Tuesday that Trump commuted Harder’s term of imprisonment but “left intact and in effect … all the other components of the sentence.”
The case was complicated by the fact that Harder’s restitution had never been settled. Back in 2015, during his sentencing, government prosecutors never provided the judge with precise figures needed to compute the restitution amount. And the judge’s sentence never specified a figure.
In April, two months after Harder got out of prison, federal prosecutors filed a motion asking the judge to impose the restitution order. This time, they provided a number: $79,499,677.
Harder argued that prosecutors violated his right to due process in trying to impose a restitution requirement five years after his sentencing.
Simon sided with the government, much to the dismay of lawyers in the case who argued Harder deserved credit for cooperating with the effort to maximize a return to the Sunwest investors and not dragging out a legal fight that would have spent down the dollars available.
“Without Jon Harder, investors would have recovered a small fraction of what they actually got,” said Steve English, who represented Harder in the civil proceedings.
Robert Hamilton, Harder’s current lawyer, declined to comment.