By LARRY NEUMEISTERAssociated Press
NEW YORK (AP) - A Florida mutual fund executive on Tuesday admitted that he lied when he promised investors early shares in companies such as Facebook and Groupon and spent their money instead on a lavish lifestyle that included pricey cars and jewelry.
John Mattera, of Fort Lauderdale, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Manhattan and was immediately sent to prison to await a Feb. 1 sentencing. He admitted defrauding investors by claiming falsely in 2010 and 2011 that he and his mutual funds owned shares in Facebook Inc. and Groupon Inc., which were then privately traded. Investors poured $11 million into escrow accounts that prosecutors say Mattera drained, spending $4 million on expensive jewelry, interior decorating and luxury cars.
Judge Richard Sullivan said he could not trust Mattera, 50, would show up to face a prison term that federal sentencing guidelines suggested should be between 10 and 12 years.
"I don't think I have to be a sucker and take him at his word," the judge said after noting Mattera's four prior convictions for similar crimes in Kentucky and Florida and the fact that he missed his flight Monday morning and forced a postponement of his guilty plea from Monday to Tuesday.
The judge also cited a contempt finding against Mattera in a civil case brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission, saying he found it "troubling and it suggests somebody who doesn't intend to or has no ability to follow through on court orders."
The judge accepted Mattera's plea to charges of conspiracy, securities fraud and wire fraud but said he will wait to decide whether to accept his plea to a money laundering charge because it was unclear that Mattera fully conceded his guilt.
As part of his plea deal, Mattera agreed to forfeit $13 million, though his lawyer said he could barely afford to stay overnight at a hotel in New York before his plea.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: "With false promises of profitable investments in high-profile stock, John Mattera lured unsuspecting investors into a meticulously orchestrated, multi-million dollar fraud scheme, and used their money to fund his lavish lifestyle. With today's guilty plea, we begin the process of holding him to account for his crimes."
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