JEFFERSON CITY — A Missouri judge granted reduced bail for the former head of the failed Moberly artificial sweetener plant on Friday.
Bruce Cole, 65, the former chief executive of Mamtek U.S. Inc., has been accused of perpetrating a massive fraud by persuading Moberly to issue $39 million in bonds and the state to authorize up to $17 million of incentives to fund an artificial sweetener facility that collapsed financially before construction finished. He has been charged with one count of theft and four counts of securities fraud related to the industrial development bonds issued by the city.
Cole had been held on $500,000 bond, but Judge Russell Steele reduced that to $100,000. Cole will have to put up only $10,000 in cash to be released from Randolph County jail. Cole had previously filed two unsuccessful motions to have his bail lowered.
Steele cited Cole's lack of financial resources and lack of prior convictions in his ruling reducing bail. If released, Cole could return to his California home and remain under house arrest. He will be subject to electronic monitoring and will be required to surrender his passport. He would only be allowed to leave to meet with attorneys or attend court proceedings, for medical reasons or to attend church.
"I am pleased that Mr. Cole's bond was reduced to a reasonable and fair level," Cole's public defender, Raymond Legg, said in an emailed statement.
A spokeswoman for the Missouri Attorney General's office said it did not have a comment on the ruling Friday. Assistant Attorney General Sean Smith is prosecuting Cole for the state. The prosecution opposed Cole's motion for reduced bail and said he was a flight risk.
Steele granted another one of Cole's motions Friday to reveal what deals the state made with witnesses testifying against him.
The Mamtek factory in Moberly once had the support of the state's highest-ranking officials but now stands abandoned.
While seeking government incentives, Mamtek said it had developed proprietary technology and begun manufacturing the artificial sweetener sucralose in China. Former Missouri Gov. Bob Holden, who is chairman of the Midwest U.S.-China Association, presented the Mamtek project to 12 states. Gov. Jay Nixon announced in July 2010 that Mamtek had chosen Moberly and could eventually create more than 600 jobs in the north-central Missouri city of about 14,000 people.
The state never paid any of its incentives because the Mamtek project failed before the company met the criteria to receive the aid.
In addition to criminal charges, Cole faces a civil lawsuit from the federal Securities and Exchange Commission and a bankruptcy suit filed by UMB Bank, the bondholders' trustee.