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2 Sentenced to 5 Years in Uranium Mine Tax Scam

Times Staff Writer

A Sherman Oaks man convicted of directing a uranium mine tax shelter scheme that resulted in $22 million in phony income tax deductions was sentenced Monday to five years in prison.

Melvin Lloyd Richards, chief executive officer of Uranium for Tax Dollars, was convicted of 21 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud and income tax charges for soliciting $6.2 million from investors for uranium mines that were never developed.

Richards’ financial adviser in the scheme, Sidney Bradpiece of Marina del Rey, was also sentenced to five years in prison for his role in the scheme.

Two other defendants convicted of selling leases in the New Mexico mineral claims, Jerome V. Saitta of Beverly Hills and Michael Adam Fryer of Woodland Hills, were sentenced to three years’ probation.

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According to Asst. U.S. Atty. Nancy Wieben Stock, who prosecuted the case, the four men encouraged investors to purchase $5,000 mineral claims with the promise that a third party “option purchaser” would contribute three or four times that amount to help develop the mines.

No option purchase money was ever paid and the mines were never developed, yet investors were encouraged to deduct a full $28.2 million from their income tax returns, Stock said.

U.S. District Judge Jesse W. Curtis said it appears that the defendants initially hoped to make good on the investments, and said it is likely that the government will be able to recover lost income taxes from investors.

“The fraud consisted of misrepresentations that were made in an effort to save the project,” Curtis said, adding that there was no evidence the defendants “had any intent to cheat anyone.”

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