Ex-banana importer gets prison for retirement fund theft

NEW YORK, N.Y. – A former banana importer already serving a dozen years in prison for distributing drugs was sentenced on Monday to another seven years for stealing $750,000 from his employees’ retirement fund.

U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer called 48-year-old Thomas Hoey Jr.’s conduct “appalling and utterly without excuse or justification” as he pronounced the sentence, saying Hoey will have to serve the majority of the new prison term only after completing the sentence he received last year in the drug case.

“At every turn, you put your interests in satisfying your appetites first,” the judge said. “You rationalize your conduct to this day.”

Hoey, who prosecutors say referred to himself as Mr. Big and as the Banana King, was convicted at trial and apologized to his ex-employees at sentencing.

“I never intended to cheat my employees,” he said.

He called his actions a mistake that “ruined my life, my family and my business.”

Prosecutors said the Garden City resident lived lavishly, enjoying extensive travel and casino trips.

In a release, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Hoey siphoned off his employees’ pension money in a company that had been handed down to him by his father and grandfather.

“Hoey stole money meant to secure the futures of his employees and instead spent it on indulgences like travel, limousine service and luxury Manhattan hotels,” Bharara said.

One of those hotels was the site of a 2009 sex party Hoey hosted. The judge said Hoey’s indifference as a woman who had ingested too much alcohol and cocaine died that night demonstrated his callous nature.

The judge read aloud the description of the woman’s death from the transcript of Hoey’s sentencing last year.

He said Hoey’s history shows he’s self-centred, content to spend his employees’ retirement money on trips abroad, fancy restaurants, limousines and “mistresses and cocaine.”

At a four-day trial in March, prosecutors recounted how Hoey transferred more than $750,000 from the retirement plan into bank accounts for his own use between June 2009 and July 2012. They said he then created fake documents to make it appear as if the retirement accounts for workers were fully funded.

Besides the prison term, the judge ordered Hoey to pay $631,000 in restitution and to forfeit $763,000.