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U. of Mobile ex-president sentenced to probation, 300 community service hou

MOBILE, Ala. (BP)–Michael A. Magnoli, former president of the University of Mobile, was sentenced to three years of probation and 300 hours of community service Nov. 4 in connection with his federal guilty plea Sept. 20 to falsifying his 1993 federal tax returns. He also, in the plea, acknowledged participating in an illegal campaign contribution scheme.
Magnoli was president of the Baptist-affiliated University of Mobile from 1984 until his termination in 1997.
As a convicted felon, Magnoli has lost his right to vote, run for public office and bear arms for life. “That’s a pretty hefty term of probation,” said assistant U.S. Attorney Michel Nicrosi.
The U.S. Attorney’s office is satisfied with the sentence handed down by Federal District Chief Judge Charles Butler, Nicrosi said, describing it as an “adequate” and “appropriate” probation term. Part of the federal sentencing guidelines state the judge can impose from one to five years probation.
Nicrosi said Magnoli’s attorney, James Brooks, asked the judge for six months probation and no community service, but the judge issued the much stiffer sentence, recommended by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Brooks had no comment regarding the sentencing, only that he felt everything was straightforward.
According to an Associated Press report, Magnoli apologized at the sentencing for embarrassing himself and his family.
Magnoli escaped a $10,000 fine the judge could have included, but did not, due to restitution already made and large sums Magnoli will have to pay to other agencies and commissions for his wrongdoings. As a condition of probation, Magnoli must cooperate with the Internal Revenue Service and the Alabama Department of Revenue (ADR) and file accurate and timely tax returns. He must pay all taxes, penalties and interest due to the IRS and the ADR. Otherwise, he will be in violation of probation and could undergo a revocation hearing in which the judge could revoke the probation, and a jail term could result.
Magnoli’s tax crime is for failing to report $15,000 of income on his 1993 income tax return.
He received the $15,000 in cash from Roger Gonzalez, former head of the university’s Nicaraguan campus. There are questionable circumstances as to the origin of the money, and the whereabouts of Gonzalez remains a mystery. Nicrosi said Magnoli brought the cash into the United States Sept. 3, 1993, when returning from the country and declared it as belonging to the University of Mobile, but the university never received any of it. The university does not do business like that in the first place, Nicrosi said.
Magnoli told his wife to deposit $8,000 of the amount into their personal bank account; the rest was deposited into their account the next day. Magnoli then used $5,000 of it as earnest money to secure a $245,000 lot on the upscale beachfront community on Ono Island near Gulf Shores and Perdido, according to the attorney’s office and the IRS.
On the day he plead guilty in federal court, Magnoli paid the IRS $4,200 — the amount he should have paid in 1993.
The IRS now has the authority from the civil side of the law to assess a civil fraud penalty for fraudulent conduct.
Nicrosi said the U.S. Attorney’s approximately two-year investigation into Magnoli’s wrongdoing is now closed.
Along with his guilty plea, Magnoli also acknowledged participating in an illegal campaign contribution plot. Due to that campaign contribution scheme, Magnoli will more than likely face penalties from other federal and state agencies, Nicrosi said.
A part of the action could be a fine from the Federal Election Commission for Magnoli’s conduit contribution to the campaign of Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Apparently, neither the senator nor his campaign were aware of the illegal circumstances when they received the money.
Nicrosi said the senator has returned the contribution in the form of a $3,000 check payable to the University of Mobile.
Magnoli admitted to this illegal move in a court document. He instructed four University of Mobile employees to make contributions to the federal reelection campaign of McConnell. Then to reimburse them, Magnoli directed the university to issue “bonus” checks to those employees.
“That’s what we call a conduit campaign contribution, and it’s a violation of federal law,” Nicrosi said.
Since the statute of limitations had expired by the time the U.S. Attorney’s Office discovered this, he could not be prosecuted.
However, Magnoli will likely face up to a $50,000 fine for it from the Federal Election Commission.
“We have notified the Federal Election Commission of the conduit campaign contribution and they have the authority to fine him up to $50,000,” Nicrosi said.
In restitution for the conduit campaign contribution violation, the university received a $5,420.04 check from Magnoli through the U.S. Attorney’s office. This check came Sept. 20 as part of the plea bargain, which has Magnoli’s admission of guilt.

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  • Anthony Wade