Federal criminal and civil cases against a 62-year-old Laguna Beach man accused of providing insider trading tips to former California Angels third baseman Doug DeCinces were settled Thursday.
James V. Mazzo agreed to pay a $1.5 million fine to settle his civil case with the Securities Exchange Commission, prompting federal prosecutors to drop the criminal indictment against him.
The civil case was before U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, who spurred prosecutors to drop their charges against Mazzo before he would sign off on the SEC settlement. That left attorneys and the defendant shuttling back and forth between Carter and the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford, who is presiding over the criminal case.
Prosecutors seemed reluctant to drop the criminal case first, but Carter insisted on it.
Mazzo and his attorney, Richard Marmaro, declined comment.
Still to be determined is what will happen at sentencing for DeCinces, who was convicted, but agreed to testify against Mazzo in a second trial in exchange for leniency at sentencing. Jurors deadlocked on charges against Mazzo in the first trial, but they also convicted co-defendant David Parker, 66, of Provo, Utah.
Guilford asked prosecutors to set a hearing “as quickly as possible” to conclude the cases against DeCinces and Parker.
When DeCinces and Parker were convicted in May 2017, DeCinces faced up to 220 years in federal prison and Parker faced up to 60 years.
“Mr. Mazzo, this is a happy day for you,” Guilford told the defendant before the SEC settled its case with him in Carter’s court.
Marmaro argued in a brief filed last month that Mazzo never profited from giving his friend and neighbor DeCinces a couple of tips when Mazzo was CEO of an eye care company.
In the second trial featuring DeCinces’ testimony against Mazzo the jury deadlocked in February 10-2 for acquittal.
DeCinces is hoping for leniency in sentencing. He testified he was facing five years in federal prison, but said prosecutors agreed to request only two years behind bars in exchange for his help with prosecuting Mazzo.
DeCinces said he had been advised by a stock broker in 2008 to buy more stock in Mazzo’s company, Advanced Medical Optics Inc., because of a planned debt-restructuring that Mazzo had discussed that would save the company about $90 million.
DeCinces testified that he bought 3,500 shares in the company based on the broker’s advice, then talked to Mazzo about the restructuring plans, prompting him to buy more than 11,000 additional shares in the ensuing days.
Prosecutors contend that Mazzo tipped off DeCinces in January 2009 about the planned sale of Advanced Medical Optics to Abbott Laboratories. DeCinces said his stockbroker advised him to sell his shares, and he collected more than $1 million in profits.
Mazzo’s attorneys have denied that he gave DeCinces any tips about the eye care company, noting during DeCinces’ testimony that the former baseball player had repeatedly denied receiving any inside information from his former neighbor.
Marmaro also argued in last month’s brief that the SEC has previously worked out settlements with DeCinces and former teammate Hall of Famer Eddie Murray as well as other defendants. DeCinces paid $1.1 million to settle the SEC case.
Mazzo believes he would “prevail” in a civil trial with the SEC, Marmaro said in the brief.
However, Marmaro added, “there is considerable risk in proceeding, and considerable personal cost. Mr. Mazzo’s life has been turned upside down for the past decade. Mr. Mazzo lost a job and three public board memberships because of the legal proceedings against him, and has been unable to find work at a U.S. listed company since the criminal indictment.
“The stress of these proceedings has been enormous and unimaginable on Mr. Mazzo and his family,” Marmaro said.
Marmaro said his client is a “two-time cancer survivor with other significant health issues,” and he wishes to “move on with his life.”