The Precipitous End of Ed Mattar

April 14th, 2008 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

Time to call the FBI special agent or U.S. Attorney in Denver, as I have every six months. I won’t have to anymore. My guy leapt to his death.

Mattar and BallTwenty-seven stories to the concrete, breaking a small tree on the way down, don’t belong in the cry-for-help class. Edward Paul Mattar, III, J.D. had something more definitive in mind on Friday, November 2, 2007.

Ed is left in this picture and I’m on the right. That was inside the jacket of the book we did together 22 years ago. It was McGraw-Hill’s Handbook for Corporate Directors. He was editor-in-chief, which in this case meant that he identified 61 subject matter experts and topics for his assistant to acquire a chapter from each for the book. I was coordinating editor, which meant that I edited, wrote or ghosted the chapters. Also, I am an absolute freak about indices, so I indexed it, a task that generally falls to a contractor who knows little or nothing of the contents.

I, Me, Mine

The Ed I knew was always working the edges and middle simultaneously. He’d do anything to ensure an advantage and a favorable outcome…for himself.

A college chum of mine who had moved to Worcester called me up laughing about Mattar a lot of years ago. Ed was the lead on the front of the local paper’s business section. The article featured the handbook, but did not mention me. The accompanying staff photo showed Ed sitting at his desk holding the book. He expertly covered my name without obscuring his own at all. I too thought it pretty funny, as well as classic Ed.

Ed had earned a solid reputation there for turning around Worcester College. They brought him in as a consultant in 1977 to close it down. Instead, he convinced local businesses to send employees there and rescued it financially. He became president of the renamed Central New England College.

That seems to have been his career’s high water mark. The Rocky Mountain News published a litany of his failures, replete with multiple accusations of fraud and swindling. They cite a trail of educational then financial institution collapses attributed to him in Maine, Rhode Island and Colorado, as well as Worcester. He resigned from Central New England, which somehow was suddenly $14 million in debt and described kindly as having financial irregularities.

People who dealt with him in Denver had unpleasant eipthets for him — a total jerk, abrupt and rude, very arrogant, strange in a lot of different ways. A bank consultant said, “He gave you this gut feeling that something wasn’t right.” Likewise, our mutual McGraw-Hill project manager said, “I don’t know what it is. He always makes me feel like I just peed in my suit.”

College to Court

On that handbook, we got along fine, largely because his assistant did the actual acquisitions work that he credited himself with doing. As a former newspaper reporter doing his first book, it never entered my mind that we would miss any deadlines. I had a full-time magazine job, but did this work evenings and weekends. When I turned it in to McGraw-Hill, Bill Sabin, the head of the division said that he had never gotten or heard of a handbook coming in on schedule. These are honking big books. I suppose if you don’t know any better, you can just do something.

In the two-year project, I did not become attached to Ed, but did and do feel an emotional tie to the handbook.

I saw a news article that briefly mentioned Mattar’s being under indictment in Colorado for bank fraud and conspiracy to do all manner of nasty things. That inspired me to ask around and connect with the U.S. Attorney’s and FBI offices there.

I was amazed at the timeline. See the BestBank history in brief at the Boulder Daily Camera‘s Banker commits suicide. Accusations started in 1995, a $30 million mystery loss and forced bank closing in 1998, a grand jury investigation in 1999, federal indictment in 2005, convictions in 2007, and sentencing for Mattar last November.

According to the agent and attorney, this is not unusual in fraud cases involving large amounts of money. Lawyers know how to drag things out and just maybe get a better deal or a reversal.

That was not in the works for Ed. He had escaped from the Northeast, but not Denver. He and his convicted co-conspirators were found guilty of 15 of 95 original counts. Two got 10 years each in federal prison; another two got 7½ each.

Ed was forever the big shot and this time he was the centerpiece. He could plan on 14 to 30 years in prison. Prosecutors asked for the 14 years for the 68-year-old. In addition, while he likely still had a few million, they asked that he forfeit $4.7 million, plus make restitution of $134 million.

He did not have that kind of money and had no way to get it. He was looking at possibly whiling the rest of his impoverished life in prison.

Scrubbing Ed

In what is apparently a standard sentencing procedure, prosecutors are certain to drop his charges eventually. The concept seems to be that even though he was convicted and cut deals on some charges, he would no longer be able to help in any appeals. So the others will have criminal records and likely never be able to work in finance again. Because he died between conviction and sentencing, he would be the only one with a clean record in the end.

Instead, 11 hours before his sentencing, at about 3:30 a.m., he took a sledgehammer to his window. I immediately wondered whether he bought or stole that for this purpose or perhaps had a sledge for work in some vacation home. It is an odd image to think of the always business-suited Ed lugging such a blue-collar implement in the elevator of his rich folk’s high-rise in the middle of Denver.

He had no spouse, but his older brother, Norman is an attorney in Buffalo. Apparently no family members attended any hearings or trial sessions. However, his brother defended Ed after the fact:

He thought he was wrongly accused because he had hired all kinds of people from the banking industry to be present and make sure they were following all the regulations. He wasn’t really a banker himself. He thought everything was perfect.

Ed was singularly nonathletic and grew increasingly eggplant shaped. There’s a bit of drollery in his using a sledgehammer to break his picture window so that he could leap. The intensity of sensations he had to feel in his last instants was not what I would have imagined for him. He seemed to have been more a sleeping-pill sort. Then again, in a bizarre way, throwing himself from the window must have given him a sense of control at the very end.

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4 Responses

  1. Craig says:

    Wow! Who would have known that I was occasionally sharing brews with a famous author! Be still my heart o’ great one!

  2. Ken Long says:

    I met Ed under benign circumstances and he decided to become my friend. He was kind, generous and intensely helpful in preparing me for a step forward into the corporate world that has proven invaluable. I knew nothing of his indiscretions and perhaps that’s why he offered his friendship; because I was no threat to him. He was a mentor, benefactor and friend, something I am unable to repay. Unlike most, if not all, I miss him. I miss his counsel, his friendship and his understanding, something that he unlike most appeared to decipher from the start. Perhaps I am alone when it comes to missing him, but I do and that will not change. Rest In Peace.

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