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'Boy Band' Creator Gets 25 Years
Headline News | 2008/05/21 15:52

Boy band mogul Lou Pearlman, who launched Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Wednesday for swindling investors and major U.S. banks out of more than $300 million.

But U.S. District Judge G. Kendall Sharp gave Pearlman the chance to cut his prison time by offering a one-month reprieve for every $1 million in cash he helps a bankruptcy trustee recover for his victims.

Theoretically, Pearlman could cancel his entire 300-month sentence by repaying the $300 million debt.

His lawyer, Fletcher Peacock, said in a written plea that 25 years amounted to a "sentence to death in prison" for the 53-year-old impresario who lived a jet-set life of mansions and luxury cars before the fraud scheme collapsed.

In an audacious two-decade scam, Pearlman admitted in his plea agreement to enticing individuals and banks to invest millions of dollars in two companies which existed only on paper -- Transcontinental Airlines Travel Services Inc and Transcontinental Airlines Inc.

He won investors' confidence with fake financial statements created by a fictitious accounting firm.

During sentencing, Sharp held up a book with letters from Pearlman's victims, saying they included "his family, his close friends and people in their 70s and 80s who have lost their life savings."

"So the sympathy factor doesn't run high with the court," the judge said.



Supreme Court will not hear appeal of Nazi guard
Headline News | 2008/05/20 16:06

The US Supreme Court denied certiorari Monday in Demjanjuk v. Mukasey, ending the appeals process of a deportation order for accused former Nazi concentration camp guard and Ohio resident John Demjanjuk. Demjanjuk, twice stripped of his US citizenship, had argued that the immigration judge who ordered his deportation lacked the authority to do so. Demajanjuk was appealing a 2005 ruling by then-US Chief Immigration Judge Michael Creppy ordering his deportation. Demjanjuk had previously lost an appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals. The US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Demjanjuk's petition for review in January.

Demjanjuk is suspected of being "Ivan the Terrible," an infamously brutal guard at Poland's Treblinka death camp during World War II. Demjanjuk has argued that the accusation is based on mistaken identity. The case dates back to 1977, when the Justice Department originally asked for Demjanjuk's citizenship to be revoked. He was extradited to Israel and sentenced to death for war crimes, but the Israeli Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 1993 and he returned to the US. In 2002, Demjanjuk again lost his US citizenship after a judge found that World War II evidence showed he worked in the Nazi concentration camps.



Suzuki Scammed Them, 19 Customers Say
Headline News | 2008/05/19 15:50
Nineteen plaintiffs claim a Suzuki dealer offered them a free new car if they drove a promo vehicle for $43 a month for a year, then tricked them into signing purchase contracts for as much as $50,000.

Chad Franklin Suzuki made other promises on which it failed to deliver, the plaintiffs claim in Wyandotte County Court. They claim the dealer said the promo was an effort to get more Suzukis on the road, and that after leasing the cars for $43 a month for 6 or 12 months, they could "return the car and obtain a new car at no cost."

It was a scam, the plaintiffs say. They claim that when they turned in the car for a new one, the defendants subtracted the depreciated value of the old car from the second vehicle, told them "they were no longer in the program," and charged them $16,000 to $26,000 for the new cars, which, financed with "excessive costs," sometimes left them owing more than $50,000.

These defendants are accused of participating in the alleged scam: CFS Enterprise Inc. dba Chad Franklin Suzuki and/or Legends Suzuki, Wells Fargo Bank NA, Wells Fargo Auto Finance, Fifth Third Bank, Americredit Financial Services, and American Suzuki Motor Corp.

Plaintiffs are represented by Charles Kugler of Kansas City, Kan.


Missouri Mom Charged In 'Cyber Bullying' Suicide
Headline News | 2008/05/16 14:58

Federal prosecutors have charged a Missouri woman with creating a fraudulent MySpace account and using it to "cyber bully" a 13-year-old Missouri girl who committed suicide, in a case that drew national attention.

Using a criminal statute most often used to go after computer hackers, prosecutors charged Lori Drew, the mother of a former friend of Megan Meier, who hanged herself.

Drew, 49, of Dardenne Prairie, Mo., allegedly claimed to be a boy who befriended Meier online and then turned on her.

The case was filed in Los Angeles because Drew is accused of providing fraudulent information to MySpace, which is based in Beverly Hills. It accuses Drew of one count of conspiracy and three counts of illegally using MySpace computers to inflict emotional distress on a child.

Drew allegedly created an account in the name of an imaginary boy, Josh Evans, used it to get information about Meier, and then used the information to inflict emotional distress on the girl.

U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien said it was the first such use of the statute in the nation.

Megan Meier hung herself in the small, wealthy town of 7,400 in October 2006, allegedly about an hour after receiving a message from the fictional boy stating, "The world would be better without you."

Previously, the fictional boy had sent Meier messages such as, "I love you so much," the complaint states.



Widow Says Hamster Virus Killed Husband
Headline News | 2008/05/13 15:26
A transplant recipient died of a virus he contracted from the donor, who got it from her pet hamster, the recipient's widow claims in Superior Court. Three other, similar claims have been filed, at least one of them alleging the organ recipient died from the hamster's virus.

Mary Petraszewski claims her husband, John, received a lung transplant at a Massachusetts hospital on April 10, 2005, and died of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) 23 days later.

She claims the unnamed donor contracted the disease from her pet hamster, which she bought at Petsmart store in Warwick, R.I., which bought it from the defendant in this case, MidSouth Distributors of Ohio.

She claims that "scientists determined" that her husband died of LCMV that the donor got from her hamster.

Petraszewski claims it was "practical and feasible" for MidSouth to screen its rodents for LCMV, but "Defendant completely failed to conduct such screening."

Petraszewski's complaint names three other organ recipients, all of whom, she says, "have similar cases pending in this court."


Theft Of $1 Million In Comics Followed By Death Threat
Headline News | 2008/05/12 14:44
A comic book auctioneer - Jay Parrino's The Mint - duped a collector for five comic books worth a total $1 million, and threatened to kill him if he took legal action about it, the collector claims in Jackson County Court.

Plaintiff Jaquiez Douglas claims he inherited the comic book collection of his late father, which included first editions from the 1930s in mint collection. Among them, he says, were Action Comic No. 1 of 1938, Detective Comic Nos. 1 and 27 of 1939, The Incredible Hulk No. 1 of 1962 and X-Men No. 1 of 1963.

Defendant Lee Parrino, of Lee's Summit, runs his store, Jay Parrino's The Mint, in Blue Springs, the complaint states.

Douglas claims Parrino offered to pay him "top dollar" for items from Douglas' collection, then after accepting delivery of 46 books, claimed the five books above "were missing." But Douglas says Parrino is advertising for sale on its Web site Action Comic No. 1 and Detective Comic No. 1.

Douglas claims Parrino has all 46 comic books, and that "When Douglas told Defendant Jay Parrino he would initiate legal action to recover the comic books, Defendant Jay Parrino threatened Douglas and said if Douglas tried 'to make trouble' then Defendant Jay Parrino 'would have [Douglas] knocked off.'" (Bracketed word in brackets in complaint.)

Douglas says he and his attorneys have tried to get the police to intervene, but "law enforcement personnel have indicated on each occasion that this is a civil matter and have refused to take action."


Arapaho Man Who Killed Bald Eagle Loses Ruling
Headline News | 2008/05/09 14:49

A member of the Northern Arapahos in Wyoming faces trial for shooting and killing a bald eagle as a sacrifice for the tribe's Sun Dance religious ceremony. The 10th Circuit upheld the Bald and Golden Eagle Act, which makes it illegal to shoot eagles, as the "least restrictive means of pursuing the government's compelling interest in preserving the bald eagle."

The ruling reversed a federal judge's decision for Winslow Friday, who argued that his "taking" is exempt from the act because the Sun Dance and its offerings are important religious rituals for Plains Indian tribes. Friday's cousin, Nathaniel, was the sponsor for the 2005 ceremony, which meant his family was responsible for getting the materials for the ceremony - including an eagle. During the dance, the tribe offers up the tail fan of an eagle to the Creator by raising it on a pole.

The government charged Friday with violating federal law by shooting the eagle used in the Sun Dance.

Friday did not have the permit needed to take an eagle for religious purposes, but his lawyers argued that he would not have been granted one had he applied.

The court rejected this claim, saying the government occasionally grants tribal permits. And while the circuit judges understood the district court's frustration with the "biased and protracted nature" of the permit process, they said the law is not futile.

"We cannot deny the government its authority to enforce a congressionally enacted criminal statute based on no more evidence than this," Judge McConnell wrote



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