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Ex-LI lawyer pleads guilty in 2009 drug-related death case

A lawyer caught up in the investigation of Long Island banana mogul Thomas Hoey over a 2009 drug-related death has pleaded guilty to suborning perjury in federal court in Manhattan.

Lawyer Barry Balaban, formerly of Great Neck, faces up to five years in prison, for conspiring with Hoey to urge a witness to lie to a grand jury probing the death of Kimberly Calo during a sex-and-drugs party hosted by Hoey at a Manhattan hotel.

The witness, Nicole Zobkiw of Wantagh, who was at the party, was convicted of perjury.

Hoey, 45, of Garden City, the head of Long Island Banana Co. of Lynbrook, was charged in December with supplying drugs and obstructing the investigation.

Balaban, who entered his plea on Jan. 17, is scheduled to be sentenced in April by U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel. The terms of his plea agreement do not include provisions relating to him being a cooperating witness for the government.

Hoey, who faces a 20-year mandatory minimum, has pleaded not guilty. He is in custody pending trial, but is appealing his detention to the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He also faces state court charges of assaulting a girlfriend and tampering with evidence.

According to testimony at Zobkiw's trial, Balaban, who now lives in Queens, approached her just before a grand jury appearance and urged her to lie. The discussion was taped, but Balaban did not explicitly say who had sent him.

Balaban's lawyer did not return a call for comment.

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