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Road builder's wife sentenced

TAMPA — The defense attorney, the federal prosecutor, even the judge agreed: If not for her crooked husband, Joanne Cone never would have been in this mess.

But the wife of imprisoned road builder Michael Cone still was sentenced to prison Friday for her role in a bankruptcy fraud.

U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew sentenced Joanne Cone to one year and one day in prison, offering a shorter term than sentencing guidelines recommended but rejecting pleas from her attorney and family members to spare her jail time altogether.

She pleaded guilty in October to one count of conspiracy to commit bankruptcy fraud.

Cone, 52, begged for leniency Friday, saying she had been manipulated by her husband and was not strong enough to stand up to him when he dragged her into the conspiracy.

"I wanted to trust," she told Bucklew. "I wanted to believe. But ultimately I should have walked away."

Bucklew said she sympathized — but still had to send her to prison.

"Everyone is responsible for themselves," she said. "I don't buy the fact that you may have been 'blinded and deluded' by love," as her defense attorney had argued.

Cone's husband, the 51-year-old former head of Cone Constructors, is serving a five-year state sentence for defrauding the state Department of Transportation and was sentenced last month to an additional 15 years in prison on federal charges of bankruptcy fraud.

A former employee, Patricia Rankin Grable, received a three-year sentence last month. All three defendants were ordered to pay millions in restitution.

Before its fall from grace, Cone Constructors was among the largest road builders in the state and served as the general contractor for parts of the Suncoast Parkway.

Thomas Kaplan can be reached at (813) 226-3404 or tkaplan@sptimes.com.

Road builder's wife sentenced 06/20/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 25, 2008 1:49pm]
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