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Commentator found guilty of fraud

A federal jury on Thursday found radio commentator Robert W. Snyder guilty of defrauding dozens of listeners out of thousands of dollars in a precious metals investment scheme. The 73-year-old Snyder, who lives in Safety Harbor, put his face in his hand and shook his head as the clerk read the verdicts. Jurors had deliberated about 90 minutes.

Snyder used his right-wing political commentaries, carried on radio stations around the country, to pitch his newsletter and to promote the sale of gold, silver and platinum.

At his trial, 30 people testified about how they were swayed by Snyder's views, ordered his newsletter, and then received phone calls from him before deciding to send Sndyer anywhere from $500 to $31,000 for precious metals he never delivered.

Most of Snyder's victims said they trusted him because he came across as such a devout Christian. All the witnesses, who came from around the country, testified to Snyder's persistence and powerful persuasion.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Hyman asked Senior U.S. District Judge George C. Young to order Snyder jailed until his sentencing because he might flee the area. Hyman said investigators believe Snyder may still have access to more than $250,000 he took in from investors that has never been recovered.

In a tearful plea, Snyder said he has lived in his home at 120 Coral Drive for 14 years, has health problems and less than $100.

"I don't even have a suit to come to court. That's why I'm dressed like this," Snyder said, referring to the powder blue knit pants and bright patterned shirt he wore for most of the week-long trial.

Young allowed Snyder to remain free on $10,000 signature bond, and set his sentencing for March 2.

Hyman told Young that federal sentencing guidelines call for a prison term of four to five years, but that the government would ask the judge to exceed those guidelines and sentence Sndyer to 10 years in prison.

In 1983, Snyder pleaded no contest in Pinellas County circuit court to a similar scheme to defraud. As part of his sentence, Snyder was ordered to pay $500,000 in restitution to 57 victims. Federal prosecutors said Snyder used about $50,000 of the money he took in during 1987 and 1988 to pay part of that restitution.

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