Tobin pleads guilty to one charge of wire fraud John M. Collard, Chairman, Strategic Management Partners, Inc. was interim CEO for Network Technologies Group, Inc.
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John M. Collard, Chairman, Strategic Management Partners, Inc. was interim CEO for Network Technologies Group, Inc.
Tobin pleads guilty to one charge of wire fraud        Text
by Larry Rulison, BBJ Staff

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February 20, 2003 

Tobin pleads guilty to one charge of wire fraud

Larry Rulison   Staff

Former Network Technologies Group Inc. CEO Michele Tobin pleaded guilty Thursday morning in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to one count of wire fraud for her role in the company's alleged scheme to defraud investors and its bank, Mercantile-Safe Deposit & Trust. Sentencing was set for May 16.

Tobin, who resigned from NTG June 28 after telling employees she had cancer, appeared in court with a shaved head and a black and tan scarf wrapped around her head. She looked weak and walked slowly into the courtroom when she arrived with her attorney, Joseph "Wick" Sollers. She also appeared to be shaking at times.

Both Tobin and Sollers declined to comment after the hearing, which occurred before U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz.

Tobin and three other NTG officers were each indicted in January by a federal grand jury on 10 counts of mail, wire and bank fraud. They face up to 30 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine on each count of the indictment. Also indicted was Victor Giordani Jr., NTG's former chief operating officer; Thomas Bray, the former chief financial officer, and Beverly Baker, the former controller. Both Giordani and Baker have pleaded not guilty. Bray has yet to appear in court.

Federal prosecutors allege that the four officers doctored financial records in order to secure a $3.5 million line of credit from Mercantile and $1.75 million in investments from Baltimore's Abell Foundation and Smith Whiley & Co., a Connecticut investment firm. NTG was based in Fells Point and laid telecommunications wire for companies like Comcast, Verizon and WorldCom.

NTG collapsed in July after Tobin's departure. A consultant brought in to hire Tobin's replacement discovered accounting irregularities and the alleged fraud. The company was shut down July 12, and all 125 employees were laid off.

As part of a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney, Tobin has agreed to help prosecutors in their investigation into NTG. She also agreed to testify in court for the case. The other nine counts of fraud against her will be dismissed, and she will not be charged with any other crimes related to the NTG case. Tobin signed the plea agreement Feb. 13, although it was formally offered by prosecutors on Jan. 15. U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio didn't announce the indictments until Jan. 22.

Since Tobin's sentence will depend in part on how much she cooperates with prosecutors in their case against the other defendants, Tobin's sentencing was scheduled to occur after the April 7 trial date that has been set for Giordani and Baker. Motz released Tobin on her own recognizance until then.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dale P. Kelberman said he did not know what Tobin's sentence might be if she cooperates in full. The federal court system has a strict formula for sentencing based on several factors. Prosecutors and Tobin's attorney disagree on many of those, including the amount of money lost in the fraud, Tobin's role in the alleged scheme and what's called "abuse of trust".

"There are several factors in dispute," Kelberman said. "I can't tell you. The judge is going to have to decide that."


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