Travel Scam : No-Fly Airline Lands Its Founder in Jail

Times Staff Writer

A North Hollywood man was ordered Monday to serve a year in jail for establishing an airline that didn't fly and a movie promotion with no films.

Kevin Von Feldt, 37, termed a "career con artist" by City Atty. James K. Hahn, was sentenced by Los Angeles Municipal Court Commissioner Juelann K. Cathey after pleading no contest to 10 counts of violating state laws prohibiting false and misleading advertising.

If Von Feldt violates his probation by setting up another con game upon his release, prosecutors will seek to have him sent back to jail for four additional years under the terms of a plea bargain, Hahn said.

Von Feldt was arrested in December after being charged with 108 criminal counts stemming from his establishment of a bogus airline, Hawaiian Pacific Airlines. Authorities accused him of bilking would-be pilots, flight attendants and other airline personnel out of an estimated $100,000 by charging them for training that he promised would guarantee them jobs with Hawaiian Pacific.

The airline, however, had no planes and no operating permits from the federal government.

After authorities began investigating the scheme early last year, Von Feldt began a new operation in which he commissioned a Los Angeles firm to produce a TV commercial offering a $39.95 mail-order book of 52 tickets to Saturday matinee showings of movie classics at participating theaters. He was charged with six counts last month in that scheme, which went under the name Katon Corp.

"The problem with the offer," Hahn said, "was that Von Feldt never had the rights to any of the films or any agreements with theaters to show them. It was nothing but a rip-off from start to finish."

In all, Von Feldt ran or attempted to run the commercial for such films as "The Wizard of Oz," "The Blob" and "Goonies" on 20 stations in 13 states, authorities said. In Portland, Ore., the ads said the films would be shown at a theater chain with which Von Feldt never had an agreement. Moreover, Von Feldt paid for airing the commercial with a bad check, authorities said.

Victims Bilked of Large Sums

In all, Von Feldt apparently bilked various victims of between $300,000 and $500,000, according to Deputy City Atty. Katharine MacKenzie, who prosecuted the case.

When Von Feldt finally closed his $13,000-a-month Sunset Boulevard office last year, he did not pay his office employees money he owed them, authorities said.

"This is the first time he's ever gotten jail time, and I'm hoping it will finally make him stop," MacKenzie said. "It's something he's been doing for years and years."

Von Feldt in 1983 ran ads and sold tickets for Hawaiian Pacific Airlines despite having no planes or legal authority to operate. In that case, his bank accounts were ordered frozen as a result of a suit by the Civil Aeronautics Board, and in a civil case, a judge in Ramsey County, Minn., fined him $150,000 for false and misleading advertising.

Cathey ordered that creditors in the airline seek restitution through federal bankruptcy proceedings, which began in April when Von Feldt filed for liquidation of assets under Chapter 7 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code, Hahn said.

Von Feldt's attorney, Deputy Public Defender John Powers, took issue Monday with Hahn's characterizations.

"Kevin Von Feldt is a really intelligent person and had he had more capital, these ventures would have been good business ventures," Powers said. "I don't think he's a con man."

Under the plea negotiated with prosecutors, Von Feldt actually received a five-year jail sentence, but four years were suspended. He also was ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.

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