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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Ross Mandell - Jim McGreevey Connection: Machiavellian?

Sometimes familiar names just keep on popping up. Harmless coincidences? Or a sign of a professional government informant who can't stay out of trouble?

In the ongoing trial of the "bad boy" stockbroker Ross Mandell (accused of a $140 million fraud, and formerly of some obscure and now defunct brokerage firm called Sky Capital) in Manhattan federal court, there is an interesting connection between the government witness Mark Halper (a self-styled farmer who grows hay and makes mulch) and former New Jersey Governor Jim 'I am a gay American' McGreevey.

Halper seems to be a professional government informant. His name should be familiar to followers of New Jersey politics: he was the man allegedly shaken down for campaign contributions by a McGreevey fundraiser -- and now convicted felon - named David D'Amiano. (Off the top of my head I would say D'Amiano was indicted back in 2004 and subsequently took a plea deal and prisoin time.)

One government tape caught McGreevey several times using the apparent code word 'Machiavelli' in a way that was not in context with the rest of the conversation.

Bad luck -- or bad people -- strangely seem to follow Halper, like a black cloud. He also referenced the notorious brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont (shut down in the mid-1990s with principals going to jail) as a firm with which he did prior business.

This apparent misfortune might be tragic luck. It is not hard to fall prey to more than one crook, especially if you are someone who does not learn from prior mistakes.  However, it could also be a sign that Halper himself is engaged in some sort of questionable behavior, from which government forbearance (i.e., turning a blind eye to certain acts that are arguably sanctionable or criminal) might require him to seek out bad actors in order to discover and yield admissible evidence of others' sanctionable or possible criminal behavior. 

Generally, people do not become government witnesses unless they are bonafide victims, or they have been caught red-handed and decide to become "cooperating witnesses" who need to produce testimony that yields a conviction in the hope of getting prosecutors' recommendation at sentencing for leniency.

Halper asserted that he is a farmer who grows hay and produces mulch. These can hardly be called "cash crops." So how does Halper support himself, at least to the tune of being able to be an 'accredited investor' (net worth of over $1 million) eligible to invest in private placements? 

Connect the dots. At the very least, it raises a question.

PS: Credit should go to the New York Post, the only media outlet which is consistently covering this trial. Once again, the Post provides the best business and legal coverage of any of the New York far. (I must say that John Crudele remains a must-read.)  As I'm sure the Wednesday coverage will point out...the trial on Tuesday brought out the fact that, as federal judge John Crotty remarked, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

PS -- Another federal government informant whose activities call into question his basic credibility: bank fraudster and "cunning liar and serial defrauder" Solomon Dwek, thrown into jail by New Jersey federal judge Jose Linares today for lying to the FBI.  The use of Dwek as the star witness compromises several major public corruption cases.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer, strategic analyst and political campaign consultant who specializes in securities regulation, government and corporate investigations and election law. 

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