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Judge Orders Liquidation of Vision Communications : Courts: Irvine firm’s owners must return thousands to investors, leaving little with which to operate the company.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A federal judge has ordered the liquidation of Vision Communications, which was selling shares in a Pennsylvania wireless cable system, after an investigation by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.

Without admitting or denying wrongdoing, William Clemens and Michael Imbesi, the owners of Irvine-based Vision Communications, have agreed to desist from sales of allegedly illegal securities and from presenting themselves as licensed securities dealers, said Judith Starr, assistant chief litigation counsel for the SEC.

In addition, the two men must return $500,000 they removed from the company, Starr said, and their personal finances are under further investigation to determine whether any additional money should be divided among investors in Vision Communications and its Pennsylvania operation, Wilkes-Barre-Scranton L.P.

The latter was ordered liquidated on Tuesday as well, Starr said, by the federal district court in Washington.

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Howard Schiffman, an attorney representing Vision Communications, said a settlement was in the best interests of the 300 affected investors.

As part of the settlement, Schiffman said that the two men would return $500,000 in fees they collected from the company. He said investors would likely be able to recoup all of their investment.

He said Clemens and Imbesi did not agree with the government’s position that they were selling unregistered securities but agreed to stop selling shares in the Pennsylvania operation and turn the company over to a receiver.

Vision was negotiating a purchase of license rights to emit television signals in the area, Starr said, but construction of an actual system was in its infancy. She said the SEC believes that a system could not be built with the money left for construction after Clemens and Imbesi had taken out the $500,000.

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The company did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Starr said about 300 investors, including an undetermined number from Southern California, spent an average of $10,000 to $15,000 each on Vision Communications’ securities. Some of the investors responded to an infomercial broadcast in various television markets around the nation, Starr said, which then sold the names of respondents to Vision Communications.

In some instances, Vision sent couriers the same day to pick up checks from investors, Starr said, leaving little time for second thoughts.


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