Parker Faces New Tax Fraud Counts : * Courts: The Newport Beach businessman pleads innocent to charges of helping cheat the government.
A federal grand jury added three additional counts to its indictment of Michael E. Parker, a Newport Beach businessman accused of defrauding a savings and loan of as much as $11 million.
Parker was arraigned in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday and pleaded innocent to new charges of helping cheat the government of tax revenue.
Parker’s trial--originally set to begin Tuesday--was postponed to Jan. 9 to give both sides more time to prepare their cases.
Prosecutors say Parker and others sold phony investments to Columbia Savings & Loan Assn. in Beverly Hills. Columbia Savings was seized by federal regulators last year after its vast junk bond portfolio plunged in value.
Parker’s lawyer, Thomas E. Holliday, said Thursday that Parker continues to maintain his innocence. Parker, he said, “looks forward to the trial and to vindicating himself.”
Parker is out of jail on $1-million bail.
The three additional counts in the new, more detailed indictment bring the total against Parker to 49, prosecutors said. In the new charges, the government contends that Parker is responsible for Columbia Savings unwittingly taking illegal tax breaks on the phony investments he sold the thrift.
Those tax breaks could have cost the government as much as $13 million, the federal Office of Thrift Supervision estimated earlier. The office said it would seek restitution from Parker, former Columbia Savings Vice President Jeffrey S. Worthy and Brian W. Fink, a former vice president in one of Parker’s companies.
Parker was first indicted in February; the original indictment includes charges of racketeering, bribery, fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. Parker sold Columbia Savings interests in leases that one of Parker’s companies arranged on equipment used by financial institutions. The leases’ attractiveness to wealthy investors was in tax breaks they afforded.
Worthy, a resident of Downey, was not named in the new, superseding indictment, although he remains charged with 43 counts from the February indictment.
That is often a sign that a defendant is about to plead guilty and perhaps cooperate with prosecutors in return for leniency. Worthy’s lawyer, Robert L. Clarkson, had no comment.
Assistant U.S. Atty. James R. Asperger, the prosecutor in charge of the case, would not comment on whether Worthy would plead soon.
Prosecutors allege that Parker used $1.5 million to bribe Worthy into helping him cover up the fraud at Columbia.