Inmate Walter Forbes committed a crime described as one of the largest corporate accounting scandals in United States history, right up there with Enron, Tyco and Worldcom. Larry Noodles was locked up for 18 months with this Harvard educated titan of corporate America, and former CEO of Cendant Corporation.
This mogul didn’t say much in jail. He kept to himself. He was quiet. He played cards every night. He slept in a bunk in the better part of the prison, which the inmates referred to as “Park Avenue.” His bunk was near a bunk occupied by another Harvard grad Hassan Nemazee, who tried to kite $200 million in checks. Nemazee was a two bit crook. Forbes was a titan of corporate industry. But in jail Forbes mopped the floors during the day. In Alcatraz Al Capone was called “the wop with the mop.” I guess you could call this mogul as the “WASP with the mop.”
Forbes never bothered me. He seemed to be a decent guy. He didn’t get into any fights. The restitution order in his case was a few billion dollars. His case dragged on for almost ten years. He went to trial three times. The first two times the jury was deadlocked, and the Judge declared mistrials. The third trial didn’t go so well for him. He was convicted and got 12 years in jail. He did pretty good compared to Skilling, Ebbers and Kozlowski. Those guys all got about 25 years.
Forbes made the Feds work hard for their conviction. His last trial was handled by US Attorney’s Office headed by Chris Christie. Forbes was very litigious and aggressive, filing motion after motion. He even challenged the court system, and claimed the court clerks unfairly assigned his case. You can see why the Feds treat big corporations with kid gloves offering them ‘deferred prosecution agreements.’ Too big to jail. The Feds don’t have the resources to take on guys like Forbes.
The lead rat who helped the Feds take down Forbes was a corporate insider and a CPA by the name of Cosmo Corigliano. Cosmo testified against Forbes in three separate rials. At his own sentencing, where he faced 8 years of incarceration, Cosmo claimed that no other rat in criminal fraud history provided as much assistance to the Feds as he did. Cosmo argued that he had at least 100 meeting with the Feds, flew thousands of miles around the country to meet with teams of prosecutors and Federal agents, and testified for 28 days in court during three trials where he was subjected to “vicious cross examination” about his personal life from Forbes’ attorneys. Where’s the violin for this rat? As a reward for his substantial assistance to the United States government, Cosmo got no jail time and a bonus slice of cheese.
The Feds, led by US attorney Chris Christie, couldn’t convict Forbes with just the testimony of Cosmo. The Feds enlisted a top corporate CEO billionaire named Henry Silverman to testify against Forbes in the third trial. The Feds couldn’t get Forbes convicted after the first two trials. Cosmo said Forbes knew about cooking the books, and Forbes denied it. It was a case of “he said she said.” Silverman didn’t know anything about accounting fraud either. But Silverman testified that Forbes, as a top executive, should have known what was going on. Silverman just made the headlines. He dumped his wife of 30 years for his yoga instructor who is 30 years his junior. He is fighting to prevent his wife from getting her hands on his money. Big boys with big toys.
At sentencing Forbes argued for a lesser sentence based on the fact that he was a well respected member of the community, charitable and kind to others. Christie wouldn’t cut Forbes a break. Christie argued to the judge, “showing kindness and compassion to friends, family, staff and colleagues going through difficult times and providing guidance and support for others in their professional lives is what one would expect of decent hard working people.” So Christie admitted that Forbes is a decent hard working person. Yet at the same time Christie said that being a decent, hard working person counts for nothing with the Department of Justice. Then what’s the point in being a decent hard working person?
Christie went on berating Forbes: “the fact that friends and colleagues think highly of the defendant as a person and a professional does not distinguish him from other white collar criminals… case law is legion with convicted felons who, other than their criminal conduct, appear to be otherwise compassionate and praiseworthy people.” Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Chris Christie is the same ruthless and unpraiseworthy man who caused a virtual shutdown of the George Washington Bridge in order to punish the Mayor of Fort Lee. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Send the school buses to the Tappen Zee. Re-route the ambulances to the Lincoln Tunnel.
Larry Noodles was also locked up with corporate mogul George Landegger, who was a 78 year old CEO of a paper mill company. George was a tax dodger. He hid $10 million in Swiss bank accounts from the IRS. George only got 3 months in jail. Larry Noodles still hasn’t figured out how George got such a short sentence. George played tennis with a biotech mogul named David Blech. But David Blech, or “DB” as we called him, lost his empire. He was doing 4 years. But he had a prior record for stock manipulation. George, Forbes and Nemazee were too serious to have prison nicknames. Prison is no place for frivolity. If you are caught fooling around the blueboyz lock you up in the SHU. Larry Noodles got news that DB recently got out of jail and is living in a halfway house. Larry Noodles also got news that Nemazee got in a fight and was sent to the SHU. The SHU is no place to be in the summer. There is no air conditioning in this ten foot by ten foot jail cell with nothing but a toilet and a steel bed. The blueboyz told me that guys flush the toilet repeatedly to get it to overflow in order to cool off the cell. Talk about a summer vacation.