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Former Mamtek CEO Bruce Cole Pleads Guilty Of Security Fraud And Theft

Mugshot of former Mamtek CEO Bruce Cole
Orange Co., Calif.
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Mugshot of former Mamtek CEO Bruce Cole
Mugshot of former Mamtek CEO Bruce Cole
Credit Orange Co., Calif.
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Mugshot of former Mamtek CEO Bruce Cole

The former CEO of a company that announced it would open an artificial sweetener plant in a small north Missouri town, but never did, has pleaded guilty to three felony counts connected to the scandal.

In 2010, Mamtek CEO Bruce Cole persuaded city leaders in Moberly to issue $39 million in bonds to build the plant, which was to employ 600 people. Shortly afterward, the state's Economic Development Department kicked in $17 million in tax credits for the project -- however, those credits were never used.

But the artificial sweetener plant never opened. Construction on the facility halted after Mamtek missed its first bond payment in September 2011. Moberly's bond rating was downgraded as a result.

The failed project spurred state lawmakers into action -- a Missouri Senate committee asked the Economic Development Department to hand over all documents related to Mamtek, and a House committee grilled former department Director David Kerr over his agency's review of Mamtek before awarding tax credits. Kerr testified in November 2011 that his agency carefully reviewed the failed company's request for incentives.

Gov. Jay Nixon also defended his administration's handling of Mamtek's request for tax breaks, telling reporters in December 2011, "I think it's very, very important for me and my Department of Economic Development to use taxpayer dollars wisely, which in this situation, by paying no benefits until jobs are created, I'm confident we did." Nixon appeared with Cole and Moberly officials at the July 2010 announcement that Mamtek would build the sweetener plant.

The Mamtek scandal also prompted an audit, in which state Auditor Tom Schweich said at the time that Economic Development officials should have done a better job of screening applicants for tax credits.

In 2012, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed charges against Cole, which included funneling some of the bond money intended for the plant to instead make payments on his home in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Cole was later arrested and charged with theft and securities fraud. He pleaded guilty Tuesday to two counts of securities fraud and one theft count as part of a plea deal, and a sentencing hearing is scheduled Nov. 3. Cole faces five to seven years in prison.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

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Missouri Public Radio State House Reporter Marshall Griffin is a proud alumnus of the University of Mississippi (a.k.a., Ole Miss), and has been in radio for over 20 years, starting out as a deejay. His big break in news came when the first President Bush ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989. Marshall was working the graveyard shift at a rock station, and began ripping news bulletins off the old AP teletype and reading updates between songs. From there on, his radio career turned toward news reporting and anchoring. In 1999, he became the capital bureau chief for Florida's Radio Networks, and in 2003 he became News Director at WFSU-FM/Florida Public Radio. During his time in Tallahassee he covered seven legislative sessions, Governor Jeb Bush's administration, four hurricanes, the Terri Schiavo saga, and the 2000 presidential recount. Before coming to Missouri, he enjoyed a brief stint in the Blue Ridge Mountains, reporting and anchoring for WWNC-AM in Asheville, North Carolina. Marshall lives in Jefferson City with his wife, Julie, their dogs, Max and Mason, and their cat, Honey.
Marshall Griffin
St. Louis Public Radio State House Reporter Marshall Griffin is a native of Mississippi and proud alumnus of Ole Miss (welcome to the SEC, Mizzou!). He has been in radio for over 20 years, starting out as a deejay. His big break in news came when the first President Bush ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989. Marshall was working the graveyard shift at a rock station, and began ripping news bulletins off an old AP teletype and reading updates between songs. From there on, his radio career turned toward news reporting and anchoring. In 1999, he became the capital bureau chief for Florida's Radio Networks, and in 2003 he became News Director at WFSU-FM/Florida Public Radio. During his time in Tallahassee he covered seven legislative sessions, Governor Jeb Bush's administration, four hurricanes, the Terri Schiavo saga, and the 2000 presidential recount. Before coming to Missouri, he enjoyed a brief stint in the Blue Ridge Mountains, reporting and anchoring for WWNC-AM in Asheville, North Carolina. Marshall lives in Jefferson City with his wife, Julie, their dogs, Max and Liberty Belle, and their cat, Honey.
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