A wealthy dentist convicted of killing his wife on a safari in Zambia so he could collect millions in life insurance policies has been sentenced to life in prison for murder and a $15 million fine.
Larry Rudolph, who prosecutors say has spent his entire life seeking domination and control over others through wealth and power, fatally shot his wife Bianca Rudolph in October 2016.
The 57-year-old wife and mother of two adult children was shot in the heart by her husband while the couple were hunting in the African savannah. He claimed his wife accidentally shot herself while she was packing to go home.
His girlfriend Lori Milliron, 65, faces 17 years in prison after being convicted of encouraging the murder in June.
Rudolph was convicted Monday by a federal court in Denver for the 2016 murder of Bianca Rudolph and for mail fraud.
He cashed in nearly $5 million in insurance policies for his wife, prosecutors say, who say he wanted to use the money to live a lavish retirement with his longtime girlfriend.
“We still strongly believe in Larry’s innocence. We look forward to ruling in his favor on appeal,” said Rudolph’s lawyers David Oscar Markus and Margot Moss.
Rudolph has claimed throughout the case that his wife’s death in the South African country in 2016 was accidental. His lawyers plan to appeal the conviction.
Prosecutors say that after he shot his wife, Rudolph, who owned a dental franchise in Pittsburgh, put the gun in the soft bag to make it look like she accidentally shot herself while packing.
They also claim the location of the murder, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) from the nearest police station, was the perfect place to try and get away with the crime, where he rushed to have his wife cremated and officials who investigated death, intimidated.
They claim the goal was to have a wealthy retirement with his old girlfriend, Milliron, using the insurance money. She was sentenced to 17 years in prison in June after being convicted of complicity. She has now filed an appeal.
“The murder was the culmination of a lifetime of seeking domination and control over others through wealth and power,” prosecutors said in a trial setting out their sentencing proposal.
Rudolph could also get more time in jail for mail fraud, in addition to paying a nearly $10 million fine, forfeiting millions in assets and paying back the insurance companies, according to what prosecutor’s demand.
Rudolph’s adult children are fighting for some of the financial penalties the government wants their father to pay, asking the court to treat them, not the insurance companies, as the victims of the insurance fraud. In a lawsuit, they say they have suffered “significant financial loss” and are entitled to a refund.
Investigators in Zambia and for the insurers concluded that Bianca Rudolph’s death was an accident. The insurance companies, some of which are based in Colorado, then had to pay the life insurance due to her death, the defense said in court filings.
But Rudolph was arrested nearly five years after her death following an FBI investigation that saw agents travel the world collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses.
A bartender at a steakhouse in Phoenix, where Milliron moved to be with Rudolph after Bianca’s death, said he heard Rudolph say, “I killed my goddamn wife for you!” during an argument they had in early 2020.
However, Brian Lovelace testified that he couldn’t hear the words just before that statement because music was playing. Rudolph testified that he really said ‘now they say I killed my goddamn wife for you!’ after learning that the FBI was investigating him.
Prosecutors allege that he built his wealth on fraud. They say he shot off his thumb during a previous visit to Zambia to collect millions in disability insurance, and claim he also cheated his dental patients, requiring root canals by not doing fillings or drilling holes in their teeth while they slept.
The fine requested by the government is double the amount Rudolph received for the life insurance policies and the insurance for the jewelry Bianca Rudolph was wearing when she was killed.
Rudolph reported that the jewelry was lost, although officials in Zambia said they gave the items to him. His lawyers say the government has not charged Rudolph for that and has never proven the allegation.
Prosecutors want Rudolph to pay $4.9 million in restitution to the insurance companies, forfeit $4.8 million from bank accounts, as well as real estate in Arizona and Pennsylvania and two luxury vehicles — an Aston Martin DB-11 and a Bentley Bentayga, according to court pieces.
Rudolph’s lawyers say the property and cars are worth millions and the combined fines total more than $25 million. They say he can’t afford it because he’s out of control of his dwindling dental practice, in huge debts, and will never be able to earn more. Rudolph’s two adult children now control his finances, the defense said.
“The truth is that such a fine would only serve to punish and bankrupt the Rudolph children, not Rudolph himself,” his lawyers said.
The government estimated that Rudolph is worth $15 million, according to the defense in a pre-sentencing report that is not available to the public, but a defense expert at trial said his worth is now less than $10 million.
Prosecutors allege that Rudolph would still have millions of dollars after paying restitution, the fine and having the property seized. Before he went on trial, they claimed Rudolph was worth $27 million and argued that he didn’t need the life insurance money he got after his wife died to prove his innocence.
“The adult children are not punished nor entitled to unjust enrichment from their father’s criminal scheme,” prosecutors said.