$11-Million Fraud Trial of Newport Man Begins Today : Courts: The case will focus on phony investments allegedly sold by Michael E. Parker to the now-defunct Columbia S&L;.


A jury of seven men and five women was selected Tuesday to decide the fate of Michael E. Parker, a Newport Beach businessman accused of defrauding the now-defunct Columbia Savings & Loan of $11 million.

Testimony in the federal case is scheduled to begin today after opening statements by the prosecution and the defense.

Parker is charged in a 39-count indictment with racketeering, conspiracy, fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. Prosecutors say Parker sold phony investments to Columbia in the mid-1980s. The Beverly Hills-based S&L;, hurt by declining junk bond values, failed in 1990.

The jury selection process, expected to be completed quickly, instead took all day as U.S. District Judge Robert M. Takasugi carefully questioned each prospect. The final 12, plus two alternates, were picked after lawyers huddled with the judge in his chambers for 1 1/2 hours to argue over whether there was good cause to dismiss certain jurors.

Assistant U.S. Atty. James R. Asperger said he expects to outline the government's case against Parker in about an hour. Parker's attorney, Thomas E. Holliday, said he expects to take little more than 30 minutes to assert that his client did nothing wrong.

As head of Parker North American Corp. in Newport Beach, Parker arranged for banks, S&Ls; and other companies to lease equipment, mainly automated teller machines. He then sold both the leases and the equipment to investors, which typically were other banks and S&Ls;, in deals that provided the buyers with tax benefits.

A number of lease packages sold to Columbia, the indictment alleges, were based on contracts and equipment that didn't exist or had inflated values.

Parker has denied any wrongdoing.

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