Jury Hears Minkow Tell of ‘Possible’ Death Threat

Times Staff Writer

Barry Minkow admitted Tuesday that he might have threatened the life of an Anaheim businessman whose tire company had processed thousands of dollars in fraudulent credit card charges for Minkow’s ZZZZ Best carpet cleaning company.

“It’s possible. There was a lot of pressure at the time,” Minkow, 22, testified in a fourth day of cross-examination in his trial in Los Angeles federal court on securities and bank fraud charges.

Although prosecutors did not press Minkow for details of the purported death threat, Minkow has already admitted lending the businessman money at usurious interest rates and has testified that he attempted at one point to blame the man for phony charges placed on the credit cards of ZZZZ Best customers.

The threat arose when the businessman, Jim Sharp, owner of the now-bankrupt J & K Tire Co., learned that fake credit card charges were being run through his company by ZZZZ Best officials and threatened to go to authorities, government investigators have alleged.


Throughout Tuesday’s testimony, Assistant U.S. Atty. Gordon Greenberg attempted to undercut Minkow’s claims that he was forced by mob figures such as convicted counterfeiter Jack Catain Jr. to commit crimes at ZZZZ Best. The prosecutor also tried to show that Minkow himself was enjoying the fruits of the fraud.

Jurors heard testimony about Minkow’s $698,000 house in Woodland Hills, his butler who kissed visitors’ hands at the door and his $100,000 Ferrari.

“Did Mr. Catain force you to choose which options you wanted on your Ferrari?” Greenberg asked.

“No, that was Mr. (Robert) Viggiano,” Minkow replied, explaining that Viggiano--a reputed organized crime figure who has not been charged in the case--and other reputed mobsters believed he should have a luxury car to boost his public image. But Minkow said that Viggiano preferred a Cadillac and that he was the one who picked out the Ferrari.


Minkow said the luxuries were “my way of dealing” with the pressures exerted on him by the organized crime figures who had infiltrated his company. But he didn’t enjoy them, in part because of the constant beatings he was undergoing, he testified.