A 55-year-old Lake Worth attorney, who turned himself into the FBI in June after spending roughly three months on the lam, is apparently trying to negotiate a plea deal with federal prosecutors who say he bilked clients out of at least $7.2 million.
As a handful of his shell-shocked victims looked on, Timothy McCabe on Monday pleaded not guilty to five counts of fraud on a financial institution. He also waived indictment on the charges. In federal court, that typically signals that a plea deal is in the works. He remains in jail without bail.
His attorney, Robert Gershman, declined comment on whether his client, who faces a possible 30-year prison sentence, is in talks with prosecutors.
More important, he declined to say where McCabe went to escape capture or what he did with the money. The answer to those two questions have haunted his victims since the lawyervanished in April, two days after Easter, leaving a cryptic note, hinting at the enormity of his financial misdeeds and the possibility of suicide.
His victims, some of whom were longtime friends, said they don’t expect to get their money back.
“He took the money and ran,” said Nancy Buchanan, a 70-year-old Lake Worth resident, who said McCabe stole $76,000 from her. “He either spent it or stashed it.”
Marie Pupke, a real estate investor who lost at least $1 million she gave McCabe to hold in escrow for various land buys, said she is baffled by the events of the past three months.
“I was so blindsided,” she said of the man she knew for 20 years and loved like a brother. “I still can’t believe it. I had to go (to court) to see this, to believe he was really in jail.”
The sight of McCabe in a prison blue jumpsuit with his hands and legs shackled was jolting, she said. “I was in denial until this morning,” she said after the short hearing.
Like other victims, she has tried to speculate on where the money — that could be well in excess of $7.2 million — went. The father of three girls didn’t live ostentatiously. His Boca Raton home, he put in his wife’s name in March, is valued at $446,000. He didn’t drive fancy cars. He didn’t take exotic vacations. His wife, Donna, wasn’t covered in bling.
His only obvious extravagance was the private school education he gave his daughters. He also ran an assortment of disparate companies — a title firm, a travel agency, one that sold kickboxing shoes and another that invested in Iraqi currency.
Still, Pupke said, none of his readily apparent activities explain how he could have chewed through millions.
She and others are left to speculate. A gambling problem? Possibly. A drug problem? Unlikely.
Given his behavior and his girth, she said she can’t believe he used the cash to fuel an addiction. In fact, one of the most startling things about him Monday was his appearance. While McCabe is still a hefty man, Pupke said he looked like he has dropped at least 50 pounds since he turned himself in. “It’s the best he’s ever looked in his life.”
Like several others who have turned to the courts, Pupke said she plans to file a lawsuit against the now-disbarred McCabe, his insurer, his business partners, his employees — anyone who might have been involved in his scheme. “I’m going to fight to get my money,” she said. She acknowledged that his insurer has said it won’t pay because his policy doesn’t cover illicit acts.
For Buchanan, suing isn’t an option. She went to McCabe to help her settle the estates of her parents, her husband and a friend. All died in 2011. Not only did he take the $46,000 she was supposed to get from her longtime friend, and loot the remaining $34,000 in the estate, she said McCabe pocketed the $30,000 she gave him to pay off the mortgage on her parents’ condo. She hoped to rent it to generate some extra cash.
“Yes, I’m bitter,” she said. “I think he has no scruples. He saw easy money and he took it.”
She said she went to court to send him a message. “I want him to know he’s hurt people,” she said. “I want him to see my face.”