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Local News in Brief : Ex-Restaurateur Held on Theft Charges

A former Torrance restaurateur who prosecutors say used bogus checks to steal almost $250,000 before fleeing to Australia seven years ago was ordered held without bail Thursday.

Federal Magistrate George King agreed with the prosecutor who said that James McGrail, 52, who was extradited to the United States last week, is “a severe risk for flight.”

McGrail, who owned the now-defunct Bounty Restaurant, is charged with two counts of transporting forged checks and three counts of bank larceny. Officials said the former Palos Verdes resident altered a $125 insurance draft issued to pay for his son’s medical bills so that it read $125,000 and deposited the check in the Torrance branch of Security Pacific Bank, along with a stolen check for $172,879 from a bank in Essex, England.

McGrail has pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, Alan Launspach, argued that McGrail should have been granted bail because he had the opportunity to flee while free on bond in Australia--where he fought extradition for three months--but did not.

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