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THOUSAND OAKS : Bail Reduced 94% for Fraud Suspect

After three attempts, the suspected mastermind of a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme had his bail reduced Friday from $2.5 million to $150,000 and was released from the Ventura County Jail.

Olen B. Phillips, 51, of Thousand Oaks had been in custody since Feb. 8, when he surrendered in connection with an 81-count indictment charging him and two others with conspiracy, grand theft and securities fraud.

Phillips’ bail originally was set at $2.5 million, and Superior Court Judge Allan L. Steele twice refused to lower it. Among other things, the judge said he needed an accounting of the assets Phillips might be able to post as bail.

In the past few years, court records say, Phillips has raised about $16.3 million from about 1,000 people who invested in his limited partnerships.

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On Friday, the court-appointed receiver who has taken charge of Phillips’ business interests told the judge that virtually all the holdings are in bankruptcy or are over-encumbered with mortgages and liens.

“Of the assets you control, are there any that could be encumbered for purposes of bail?” asked Phillips’ attorney, Louis Samonsky Jr.

“The answer is no,” said the receiver, Richard Weissman, a Los Angeles attorney.

In his testimony, Phillips agreed that he is broke. He said he needs to resume his career as a United Airlines captain to raise money for legal fees and other expenses.

Samonsky noted that Steele had reduced bail to $150,000 for co-defendant Charles J. Francoeur of Agoura Hills and to $50,000 for co-defendant Felix Laumann of Cambria. He said friends of Phillips had pledged property valued at $300,000--which is worth half as much for bail purposes--and said that was all Phillips could come up with.

Steele granted the 94% reduction in bail, but insisted on several conditions:

Phillips may not leave the country, and he and his family must surrender their passports; Phillips must turn over an airline credential that allows him to bypass customs; he must stay in California except when flying for United; and he must inform the district attorney’s office of his work schedule.

The three men are scheduled for arraignment March 18.

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