Convicted former candidate hit with $10.2 mil tab

While former cigarette mogul Ned Roscoe – who placed 34th in a field of 135 in 2003’s gubernatorial recall election even while he was busy defrauding a bank – prepares to start serving a five-year federal prison term next Monday, a federal judge has hit him and his father with a $10.2 million restitution bill.

Roscoe, of Fairfield, was convicted in February 2011 of all 28 counts federal prosecutors had filed against him: one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and to make false statements to Comerica Bank, 13 counts of bank fraud, and 14 counts of false statements to a bank.

Benicia-based Cigarettes Cheaper! at its peak had almost 800 retail stores nationwide and $1 billion in annual revenue. After a month-long trial, jurors agreed Roscoe from August through November 2003 had directed company accountants to inflate the company’s weekly borrowing base reports of inventory submitted to Comerica Bank, eventually inflating the value of the company’s inventory by more than $16 million. He did so to get more money from Comerica through Cigarettes Cheaper!’s $21 million line of credit and to avoid a pay-down on another, $10.7 million credit line.

The jury also agreed that evidence showed Roscoe and his father, John Roscoe, 82, conspired to defraud Comerica Bank and make false statements to the bank; the elder Roscoe pleaded guilty in January 2011, and eventually wound up with a sentence of five years of probation with one year of home detention. And Ned Roscoe directed a company accountant to falsely inform Comerica Bank in late November 2003 that the cause of the $16 million in inflated inventory was due to clerical or accounting errors, his jury found.

Ned Roscoe was sentenced in February, but not before prosecutors had filed a memo asking the judge to order the Roscoes to pay more than $27 million in restitution: the $16.1 million outstanding principal balance on the company’s loan, plus $10.9 million in accrued interest.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte ordered restitution including $8,229,692.58 in principal, and $1,976,963.10 in pre-judgment interest, due and payable immediately; the order reflected that the bank’s losses were partially mitigated by the bank’s prior liquidation of the defendants’ collateral. Whyte further ordered that John and Ned Roscoe each make an initial payment of $5,000, plus no less than $2,500 per month until the restitution orders are satisfied. Ned Roscoe was ordered to pay $25 per quarter while serving his time in prison.

On the plus side, Roscoe has the edge of knowing the value of a cigarette before becoming an inmate.

He ran as a Libertarian in the October 2003 race to oust and replace Gov. Gray Davis. In a blog he maintained at the time, he said he was counting on the support of “this political base, formed first of smokers with many different political persuasions, united in the belief that we must respect the freedoms of others in order to have freedoms of our own, combined with others seeking sensible, realistic actions by a new Governor.”

“I am optimistic, with the calm confidence of a Christian with four aces,” he wrote. “Government isn’t like business. Good government needs consensus. I can work with Legislators and officials to decide rapidly and to do what makes sense quickly. My sense of urgency comes from having customers to serve and bills to pay. My top priority is to improve the prosperity of workers without expanding the burden of government. That is, to do the decent thing.”

He finished 34th in a field of 135, earning 2,250 votes (about .02 percent of all those cast).

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Elwood

    34th ain’t bad, especially when you’re busy defrauding a bank!

  • JohnW

    Wonder what Roscoe’s position is on Prop. 29.