Inmate Trades Stock From Prison

Tuesday, February 6th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ELMIRA, N.Y. (AP) — The guards at the maximum-security prison here call Inmate 90T1282 ``our resident millionaire.''

Michael Mathie, serving a 10- to 30-year sentence for manslaughter, claims to have traded upward of $8 million in securities since 1998. In 1999, he had an adjusted gross income of $899,969.

Mathie, 33, makes trades by calling his father collect from a pay telephone. His father then places trades on the Internet.

``I could be paying a mortgage with what I pay MCI,'' Mathie told The New York Times in Tuesday's editions. He said he pays his father $500 to $1,200 a month for the calls.

Inmates cannot run their own business from prison, but Mathie's investing is not considered a business since his father conducts the transactions.

``Certainly, since the transaction is occurring outside prison, it's not something over which we would exercise any control,'' said Jim Flateau, spokesman for the state's Department of Correctional Services.

Inmates have a First Amendment right to discuss whatever they want on the phone, as long as it is legal, he said.

Mathie was well acquainted with risk — but not the financial kind — when he landed in jail in 1989. He was 21, a high school dropout and former cocaine addict.

He and three others were arrested in the murder of Paul Vincent Lamariana, 49, who was hit in the head with a tire iron, choked with an electrical cord, stuffed in plastic bags, wrapped in all-weather carpet and dumped on the side of a road on Long Island.

Mathie admitted he hit Lamariana with the tire iron and choked him. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and conspiracy, but said he did so to get out of jail, where he said he was raped and repeatedly sexually abused.

In 1996, Mathie won a $750,000 settlement in a civil suit over the abuse. No criminal charges were filed because the district attorney's office said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.

After an appeal, Mathie's award was reduced to about $500,000. With $75,000 of that, he began trading stocks.

Such behind-bars business is very unusual, said Robert Gangi, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, a nonprofit policy analysis group.

``Most inmates are poor people, and most inmates wouldn't know a stock exchange from a soccer ball,'' he said.

An unsuccessful bill proposed by Gov. George Pataki last year would have allowed crime victims to sue convicts for money and property from any source. That bill will be proposed again this year, said a spokeswoman for the state's Crime Victims Board.