Sky Capital’s Ross Mandell Files Lawsuit From Florida Prison, Seeks Release

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Ross Mandell, the former CEO of Sky Capital who was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for defrauding investors of millions of dollars, filed a lawsuit today in Florida against the SEC, the FBI, and the Department of Justice that claims the government is withholding information that would overturn his conviction. Mandell’s suit is based on the failure of these organizations to produce records identified in several of Mandell’s requests under the Freedom of Information Act, according to Forbes.

Mandell was indicted in 2009 following a raid on Sky Capital’s New York office in 2006. Mandell’s attorney, Jeffrey Hoffman, claimed that the U.S. court did not have jurisdiction over the matter because it involved securities traded on the London Exchange, citing a 2010 Supreme Court decision. However, U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty ruled that precedent did not apply to a criminal trial. U.S. prosecutor Katherine Goldstein recommended a lifetime prison term, but Crotty instead sentenced Mandell to 12 years, ordered him to forfeit $50 million in restitution, and fined him $10,000.

Mandell has now served four years of that term, but his new bid for freedom is based on the relationship between attorney Steven Altman and Mandell’s own counsel, Jeffrey Hoffman. Altman was an attorney who had often worked for Sky Capital, and was in fact the one who recommended Hoffman to Mandell as Hoffman was then defending Altman in an unrelated SEC case. During the original trial, Hoffman had withdrawn as Mandell’s representation after a dispute over attorney fees just a few weeks before the trial. Judge Crotty forced Hoffman to represent Mandell, refusing his withdrawal request. Altman later reappeared during the trial as a government witness and an un-indicted co-conspirator. Mandell contends that Hoffman, angry over the unpaid attorney fees, provided ineffective counsel while helping Altman escape indictment.

If Hoffman served as legal counsel for both Mandell and Altman during the same criminal case, it would be an illegal conflict of interest. So Mandell began asking the government agencies for all of their files relating to Altman, seeking information that Hoffman acted as representation for Altman during government interviews relating to the Sky Capital case. Mandell claims to have reliable information that the government agencies have several files regarding Altman, yet for the past two years have not turned them over.

The government agencies have contended that there are thousands of pages of information related to Altman, some of which is confidential in nature and not subject to release.