Stock swindler's guilty plea rejected twice

Posted: Updated:

A second judge rejected a convicted Armonk hedge-fund swindler's guilty plea Wednesday in a White Plains courtroom.

Samuel Israel III, 48, was scheduled to start a 20-year prison sentence on June 9 in Massachusetts for fleecing investors. On the morning that he was supposed to surrender, authorities say Israel left his SUV on Bear Mountain Bridge with the words "suicide is painless" scrawled in dust on the hood.

He then took off in an RV and apparently spent the next few weeks at a Massachusetts campground while police and federal agents, not fooled by the fake suicide, searched for him. Israel surrendered July 2 at a Massachusetts police station.

While he was missing, his girlfriend, Debra Ryan, was arrested and charged with aiding and abetting his failure to surrender. Her case is pending.

Israel pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to a charge of failure to surrender. However, magistrate Judge Lisa Margaret Smith said she wasn't authorized to accept his guilty plea and that the case would go before Judge Kenneth Karas, who would likely accept the guilty plea.

At a separate hearing, Karas asked Israel if he was on drugs. Israel responded that he was in a detox program and was taking methadone. The judge then asked Israel to rank his mental clarity on a scale of one to 100.

"Mr. Israel indicated he was ready to proceed, but when Mr. Israel stated that his ability to proceed was at the 70 percent level, it was decided ? that it was better to put the matter off until another day," said Israel's attorney, Barry Bohrer.

Karas postponed the hearing until Sept. 16.

If Israel's guilty plea is accepted, he could get as much as 10 years tacked on his 20-year sentence for bilking investors out $450 million.

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