Investment-Firm Official Pleads Guilty in Fraud

Times Staff Writer

The former vice president of a now-defunct Universal City investment firm that allegedly defrauded about 500 investors across the Southwest of more than $5 million pleaded guilty Wednesday to violating securities laws.

David L. Wiksell, 48, of Van Nuys, vice president of Comstock Financial Services, and Roy L. Comstock, its chairman, were originally charged with three felony counts of violating corporate securities laws.

But, in a plea bargain, Wiksell pleaded guilty before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert T. Altman to one count of selling unqualified securities, Deputy Dist. Atty. J. Timothy Browne said.

Wiksell and Comstock carried out the bogus investment scheme from a $16,000-a month penthouse suite overlooking the San Fernando Valley from August, 1984, to August, 1985, Browne said.

The two men, he said, promised investors as much as a 30% return on investments in Treasury bills, but instead diverted the money to a dozen bank accounts they controlled. Some of the accounts were in Switzerland and the Marshall Islands, the prosecutor said.

None of the money has been returned to the investors, and the firm has filed for bankruptcy, Browne added.

Several victims were described by Securities and Exchange Commission officials as fundamentalist Christians who believed Wiksell and Comstock were blessed by God with extraordinary business savvy. Wiksell and Comstock were active members of the First Baptist Church of Van Nuys, and several of the victims also were church members, Browne said.

The Rev. Jess Moody, pastor of the church and the host of a local religious television program, said he lost $40,000 in personal savings. At Wiksell's preliminary hearing last March, Moody characterized his relationship with the defendant as one founded on "love and respect," Browne said.

Comstock, 47, a former Sunday school teacher, pleaded no contest to one count of violating corporate securities laws last July and was sentenced to four years in state prison. Browne said Wiksell will probably get a similar sentence.

Wiksell, who is free on $325,000 bail, is scheduled to be sentenced March 25.

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