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Banana mogul Thomas Hoey pleads not guilty to embezzlement charges

Thomas Hoey is shown on Jan. 11, 2009

Thomas Hoey is shown on Jan. 11, 2009 in Garden City. Credit: Victor Alcorn

Long Island banana executive Thomas Hoey, whose company once allegedly grossed $30 million, was provisionally assigned a court-appointed lawyer Tuesday as he pleaded not guilty to charges that he embezzled his employees' retirement funds.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan made the appointment when Hoey showed up in court without an attorney, and the lawyer who was asked to fill in said Hoey's finances were too tangled to determine on the spot if he was entitled to taxpayer-funded representation.

"It would take some time to get to the bottom of a very complex situation involving the defendant's finances," lawyer Michael Tremonte said.

Hoey, 47, of Garden City, the owner of Long Island Banana Co., a regional produce distributor, faces up to 45 years in prison on charges that he stole more than $800,000 from a pension fund beginning in 2009 to pay bills and finance a luxe lifestyle.

He was sentenced last month to 11/3 to 4 years in prison on state charges of assaulting his girlfriend, and he could get up to 20 years in federal time on Thursday at his sentencing for distributing drugs at a sex party where a woman died of an overdose.

Long Island Banana Co. is now in bankruptcy proceedings, where the allegations of missing pension funds first surfaced. Hoey has been represented by at least seven different lawyers in his various criminal cases.

Furman told Tremonte to submit a letter in two weeks on whether Hoey's finances qualify him for an appointed lawyer. If they don't, the judge said, he will have to retain a lawyer and repay the government for Tremonte's fees.


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