Ex-CEO convicted in scam at auto-chemical company

AP News
|
Posted: Jul 19, 2011 8:10 PM
Ex-CEO convicted in scam at auto-chemical company

A former corporate executive officer of a New York-based automotive-chemical company was convicted Tuesday in a multimillion-dollar investor fraud scheme that enabled him to buy expensive jewelry and take private jets.

A jury in Manhattan state Supreme Court found Cleveland lawyer James Margulies guilty of charges including grand larceny and scheme to defraud. He faces up to 25 years on the top two counts, which could run consecutively. Bail was set at $1.5 million.

Ira London, an attorney for Margulies, said he planned to file "a very vigorous appeal."

"The jury has spoken. I believe they have convicted an innocent man," he said.

While serving as the company's finance chief _ and briefly as CEO _ of Industrial Enterprises of America, Inc., from 2004 to 2008, Margulies illegally issued millions of shares of stock to friends and relatives, inflating the share price by making the company look more profitable than it was, prosecutors said.

A teachers' pension fund in Ohio and a church were among the victims of the scheme, prosecutors said.

Margulies personally reaped more than $7 million, spending it on lavish luxuries such as a $350,000 diamond ring for his wife from jeweler Harry Winston, prosecutors said.

He also paid more than a million dollars on the mortgage of his first home, bought a second home and spent $500,000 on a vacation club membership, prosecutors said.

Margulies was charged in the scheme in 2010 along with John D. Mazzuto, who pleaded guilty Jan. 14 to his role in issuing fraudulent shares of stock.

Mazzuto, who was CEO of Industrial Enterprises before Margulies, had been accused of helping to plunder the company that he built himself through a series of acquisitions.

Prosecutors said that their fraud cost the company $90 million worth of illegally issued securities and stole more than $20 million from investors.

Industrial Enterprises sells antifreeze, windshield-wiper fluid and other chemical products for cars. Its stock trades for pennies on the over-the-counter bulletin board, an electronic quotation service.