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Tobias Estate Case Wraps Up with Settlement

Monday, 16 Jun 2008 | 12:07 PM ET

The lurid case of hedge fund manager Seth Tobias, who died mysteriously in September, is finally nearing an end.

As CNBC.com first reported Friday, the two sides in the bitter battle over Tobias' estate have reached an out-of-court settlement. They informed the judge of the agreement this morning.

"Rumor has it you're going to give me a couple of weeks off," said Palm Beach County Judge Richard Oftedal, as court convened for what would have been a sensational, eight day trial.

Tobias, 44, was found dead in the swimming pool of his Jupiter, Fla., mansion in the early morning hours of Sept. 4. An autopsy showed he had alcohol, cocaine, and the sleeping medication Ambien in his system. Tobias, a frequent CNBC guest, was the founder of the $300 million Circle T Family of Funds.

Under Florida law, Tobias' wife of two years, Filomena, would inherit all of his estate, valued conservatively at $25 million. But Tobias' family, led by half brothers Sam and Spence, charged that Mrs. Tobias killed her husband, and should be blocked from collecting the estate under Florida's so-called "slayer statute." Criminal authorities ruled in February that there was no indication of foul play, but the brothers pressed their claim anyway, saying Filomena Tobias killed her husband for his money.

The brothers were beneficiaries in a will Seth signed in 2004. But that will was effectively nullified when Seth married Filomena in 2005. Seth never updated his previous will, and the couple had no prenuptial agreement. As a result, under Florida law, the surviving spouse inherits everything.

The case created a worldwide media frenzy after a man who claimed to be the Tobiases' personal assistant said he had a taped confession from Mrs. Tobias. Billy Ash claimed she admitted lacing Seth's pasta with Ambien, then luring him into the swimming pool with the promise of three-way sex with a male stripper. But no confession ever materialized, and police eventually discounted the story. Ash, it turned out, was Filomena Tobias' Internet psychic, and has a long criminal history.

In settling the case, Tobias family attorney James Pressly says the two sides avoided a legal battle that could have gone on for years. Instead, Pressly told reporters, "No one wins and no one loses."

However, the settlement provides for a joint statement in which the Tobiases will confirm they have dropped their allegations against Filomena.

An attorney for Mrs. Tobias, Jay Jackin, who is also Filomena's ex-husband, says she is still grieving over the loss of her husband. "I am pleased that the case has been resolved amicably, and that both sides can move on with their lives," Jacknin told CNBC on Friday.

The settlement must still be approved by the court. In addition, a handful of beneficiaries of Seth's original will, who were not parties in the lawsuit, will be given until Thursday to object. If they do, that does not necessarily derail the settlement. "There is always such a thing as a partial settlement," Pressly said.

Judge Oftedal said he would consider a request by both sides to keep the terms of the settlement confidential. A final ruling is expected at a hearing Thursday morning.

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