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San Diego

A San Diego Superior Court judge on Tuesday ordered a jury trial to determine the size of the award in a case pitting a one-time high-flying business entrepreneur who bilked his mother-in-law of her $75,000 retirement nest egg.

Judge Artie G. Henderson set a Feb. 18 trial date.

Chuck Russ, 37, a dark-haired and dynamic businessman who dropped from sight last August, months after his wife was killed, was found guilty in early January of embezzling money from his mother-in-law, Ginger Allen of Encinitas, in a phony investment scheme.

Although the decision means Russ owes Allen the misappropriated money, the Feb. 18 trial is necessary to determine if Allen should receive punitive damages.

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Allen, a 66-year-old dance teacher, is seeking to recover $600,000 in life insurance money due Russ from policies he had taken out on his wife, Pamela, whose battered body was discovered a year ago along an isolated stretch of the coast highway near Torrey Pines State Park. Russ was barred by a judge from collecting the insurance money shortly after Allen filed her civil suit.

The civil suit has been colored by the investigation of Pamela Russ’ death. Friends and former legal advisers of Chuck Russ have griped that the lawsuit was meant to spotlight the businessman as a suspect in the slaying of his wife.


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