Ex-Mamtek CEO faces 5 to 7 years in prison

Attorney General Chris Koster said Bruce Cole will spend at least 5 years in a state prison.

Attorney General Chris Koster said Tuesday former Mamtek CEO Bruce Cole will spend at least 5 years in a state prison.

Cole pleaded guilty Tuesday afternoon to one county of felony stealing and two counts of securities fraud in the case of an artificial sweetener plant. The City of Moberly gave Cole $39 million in municipal bonds in 2010 to build the plant, and the state authorized another $17 million in incentives. The project collapsed a year later when Coleâ??s company, Mamtek U.S., missed a debt payment. Investigators found Cole had taken more than $700,000 of company finances for personal use, including some $281,000 to prevent foreclosure of his Beverly Hills mansion.

Koster told reporters the punishment was the most appropriate one the criminal justice system could administer under the circumstances.

â??The perfect resolution in the case would have been to get the $39 million back for investors,â?? he said. â??That was not possible. The money was squandered in dozens and dozens of different avenues.â??

Randolph County prosecutor Mike Fusselman said Cole is currently in bankruptcy, so a bankruptcy court will determine how large a fine he can pay.

Koster said there were lessons to be learned from the Mamtek case.

â??It is a reminder that all municipal governments that are involved in economic development issues have to drill down and do the important due diligence to ensure that they are not being taken advantage of by shysters like Cole,â?? he said.

Federal authorities will discontinue a separate case they were pursuing against Cole, though Koster said that decision was made independently of Tuesdayâ??s plea. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 3. Koster said the judge will ultimately decide how much of the 5 to 7 years Cole physically spends behind bars, but his office will argue in favor of keeping Cole in a state prison for the duration of the sentence.