Judge slams ex-Merrill broker's proposed plea deal

Rejects Mandala's pitch for lighter sentence; 'You steal money. You give it back. You buy yourself out of state prison. I don't get it.'

Apr 14, 2010 @ 1:14 pm

By Bloomberg

A New York state judge rejected a proposed plea deal for former Bank of America Corp. Merrill Lynch broker Steven Mandala, who is charged with stealing $780,000 from the firm and using a chunk to buy a Ferrari.

Acting state Supreme Court Justice Carol Berkman today nixed a defense offer that Mandala plead guilty to the top count, grand larceny, with a promised sentence of one to three years behind bars if he made upfront restitution of about $400,000, including about $300,000 cash and the proceeds of auctioning off the sports car for which he paid $245,000.

The Manhattan District Attorney's office had recommended two to six years in prison, though prosecutor Vimi Bhatia didn't oppose Mandala's offer in court.

“I thought three to nine [years] was appropriate,” Berkman said in rejecting the proposed deal. “You steal money. You give it back. You buy yourself out of state prison. I don't get it.”

The judge set June 2 as a trial date. Before then, she said, “Maybe you could make a submission to persuade me your recommendation isn't totally off track.”

Outside the lower Manhattan courtroom, defense attorney Franklin Rothman said his client has a “serious medical condition” involving his heart that he would document for the judge.

While employed as a stockbroker with Maxim Group, Mandala falsely told Merrill, purchased last year by Bank of America, that he managed $300 million in assets and earned about $765,000 a year, well above his actual pay of about $100,000, according to a February statement from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. announcing the Mandala's indictment. Merrill Lynch hired Mandala in April and loaned him $780,000 to be paid back over eight years, according to the statement.

Mandala deposited the check from Merrill in his parents' bank account and used some of the funds to buy a Ferrari in his father's name, prosecutors said in the statement. He resigned less than two months after being hired, according to the statement.

Mandala is charged with grand larceny, money laundering, criminal possession of a forged instrument, falsifying business records and identity theft. If convicted at trial of the top count, he faces as long as 15 years in prison.

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