JUPITER, Fla. - A life of private jets and black-tie balls ended with Seth Tobias, a wealthy investment manager and a familiar presence on CNBC, floating face down in the swimming pool of his mansion here.
It was just after midnight on Sept. 4 when Tobias' wife, Filomena, frantically called 911. "Please send somebody, please!" Tobias screamed. "He's not breathing!" By the time the police arrived, she had pulled her husband's body to the edge of the pool, where she cradled his head in her arms, sobbing.
Seth Tobias, a native of Philadelphia, 44, had apparently suffered a heart attack, his brother Spence said at the time. The police did not consider his death suspicious.
But now an unfolding drama over Tobias' estate is providing a lurid account of fast money and faster living in the volatile world of hedge funds. Tobias' four brothers and Filomena Tobias are locked in a legal battle over the estate, which is worth at least $25 million. And, in a civil complaint, they have gone so far as to accuse her of murder.
The brothers, Samuel, Spence, Scott and Joshua, claim Filomena Tobias drugged her husband and lured him into the pool. Bill Ash, a former assistant to Seth Tobias, has told the police that Filomena Tobias confessed to him that she had cajoled her husband into the water while he was on a cocaine binge with a promise of sex with a male go-go dancer known as "Tiger."
Filomena Tobias' lawyers call the claims outrageous. She has not been accused of any crime.
The mystery deepened when it emerged that Filomena Tobias spent $9,628 to have the pool drained and resurfaced days after her husband died, according to documents filed in an unrelated case.
The salacious accusations have captivated this wealthy enclave north of West Palm Beach and transfixed the investment world in New York, where Tobias ran a $300 million hedge fund from an office on Park Avenue. From the Breakers hotel in Palm Beach, a stately symbol of old money, to trading floors on Wall Street, the epicenter of the explosive wealth now reshaping American society, the case is seen as a parable of the modern gilded age.
"I don't understand why this hasn't ended up on CSI Miami yet," said Jim Cramer, the host of CNBC's stock-picking show "Mad Money" and Tobias' former boss on Wall Street.
The questions keep piling up, starting with the big one: How did Tobias die? The police in Jupiter have not opened a homicide investigation but are awaiting the results of toxicology tests before making a final determination, said Sgt. Scott Pascarella.
At the center of the dispute is Tobias' will, which designates his brothers as beneficiaries but does not name Filomena Tobias. She contends that she is entitled to the estate because the will was signed before the couple married. In court filings, the Tobias brothers invoke Florida's "slayer statute," which prohibits inheritance by a person who kills someone from whom they stand to inherit. They claim she "intentionally killed" her husband "by asphyxiation and drowning."
One lawyer representing Filomena Tobias, Gary Dunkin, said he was shocked by the accusation. "In my 25 years practicing law, this is the most reckless allegation I have ever seen," Dunkin said in court. Her lawyers, which include her prior husband, Jay J. Jacknin, have asked the court to put off her depositions because of her "psychiatric condition." They said she hired contractors to empty the pool because she was distraught over her husband's death.
However this mystery plays out, it is providing a treasure of details that document the lavish lifestyles that hedge funds can afford their founders, and perhaps sheds light on how all that money ultimately influences their personal lives.
Seth Tobias entered this secretive, often volatile corner of the financial world after spending less than a decade on Wall Street, including a stint with Cramer's former money-management firm. He formed Circle T in 1996, with $4 million, and parlayed that into a $300 million hedge fund and brokerage firm.
Along the way, Tobias collected the trappings of success. He spent days at the Kentucky Derby and nights at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club. He frequently shuttled by private jet between New York, where he worked in the Seagram Building in Manhattan, and Florida, where he owned two homes.
Tobias made - and apparently spent - millions of dollars a year, court documents suggest. Outstanding expenses at the time of his death included $52,532 on his American Express Centurion Black Card and $7,960 on his Bank of America credit card. His mortgage payment for one of his homes was $35,000 a month. He paid $1,367 a month to lease a Land Rover. His monthly cable bill from Comcast was $535.19. *