Here’s some text on it - Posted by John (CA)
Posted by John (CA) on November 05, 1998 at 05:56:58:
Published in The Orlando Sentinel, Nov 5 1998
The high-flying career of real estate infomercial guru William J. McCorkle collapsed with him Wednesday after a jury found him guilty of 82 fraud and money-laundering charges.
As his wife wept uncontrollably, McCorkle passed out, went stiff and then jerked awake as the first 13 guilty verdicts were read in Orlando’s federal court.
“My client needs attention,” defense lawyer F. Lee Bailey said as bailiffs rushed to his attention.
U.S. District Judge Patricia Fawsett stopped the reading of the verdicts while U.S. marshals led the gaunt-faced McCorkle out of court.
“I can’t sit through that,” McCorkle mumbled. “I need some water.”
Orlando Fire Department paramedics wheeled him out of the building on a gurney and took him by ambulance to Orlando Regional Medical Center, where he was admitted overnight.
Hospital spokesman Joe Brown said McCorkle, 32, was being evaluated for symptoms from a possible anxiety attack.
It was another dramatic performance by the well-dressed, boyish entrepreneur, who projected a message of wealth and the high life for six years on television stations nationwide.
His infomercials invited viewers to buy videos and pamphlets containing his secrets of getting rich from foreclosed real estate and government auctions.
Prosecutors said the operation grossed $40 million to $50 million over the past six years.
Jurors found him guilty of defrauding customers out of millions of dollars, stashing $7.1 million in Cayman Island banks while under state and federal investigation, using phony Social Security numbers and credit cards with an alias, and making false statements to judges after his arrest.
His 30-year-old wife, Chantal, was convicted on all 69 charges she faced. She wept aloud throughout the hearing, cradled in the arms of attorney Mark Horwitz. He tried to quiet her after Fawsett threatened to have the former English nanny removed.
After hearing 30 minutes of verdicts read against her daughter, Chantal’s mother burst out crying and was escorted from the courtroom with an unidentified man.
“Let me go! Nothing but ba@#$%^# in this country,” she said in a heavy British accent. “You don’t know what you’ve done to her.”
“What do you expect?” yelled her companion as they walked out the door with marshals.
The 163 guilty verdicts read during the hourlong hearing included 10 counts against McCorkle corporations and two against two former McCorkle executives.
Those aides, Brian Higgins, 39, of Winter Springs and Herman Venske, 38, of Oviedo were convicted of one count each of fraud-conspiracy. Both remain free on bail.
The same jury acquitted another McCorkle aide, real estate department adviser Sam Smith, who had faced a single fraud-conspiracy charge. Smith, 49, of Orlando, said he was “just happy” with the verdict.
Attorneys for the McCorkles and the two convicted aides said they will file appeals if they cannot have the verdicts thrown out. Jurors rejected defense arguments that McCorkle’s company was growing out of control and that none of those charged had intended to defraud anyone.
“We’re disappointed with the verdict,” Horwitz said.
He said he will challenge everything from the federal jury selection process to Fawsett’s refusal to separate the fraud and money-laundering charges into two trials.
“You only get one life to live,” McCorkle said in one infomercial. “Be daring, enjoy life. Get something out of it. Don’t let this opportunity slip through your fingers. Right now, you have a chance to be wealthy.”
He told viewers he had once been a poor child and showed himself with a yacht, a sprawling home and helicopter.
Prosecutors presented evidence that none of those signs of wealth belonged to him, and that many of the satisfied customers shown on TV were McCorkle friends, employees and actors.
The couple has denied misleading people and contended that they refunded millions of dollars to unhappy customers. They did not testify in their own behalf.
The 12 jurors had sat through eight weeks of testimony but rendered their decision in a stunningly short time – only nine hours after getting the case Tuesday afternoon. During Wednesday’s courtroom drama, jurors leaned back in their chairs and stared at the defendants and attorneys with blank expressions.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul Byron and Marie DeMarco, who prosecuted the case, declined to comment after the verdicts. Today they will ask the jury whether the McCorkles and their companies should forfeit $10 million in assets seized during a May 1997 raid.
Because the McCorkles face 15 to 20 years in prison, the judge ordered the Lake Mary couple jailed until their January sentencing. Byron argued that the McCorkles still might have money that could allow them to flee.
Bailey reminded Fawsett that the McCorkles had cut short a Mexican vacation when indicted in March and returned to Orlando to face the charges. He said the couple, who set aside $2 million for their defense in a Cayman Islands bank, were broke. The lawyer said he had advanced them money for utilities and loaned them a car during the trial.
Marshals were guarding McCorkle at the hospital Wednesday night.
Chantal McCorkle appeared dazed and distraught when taken into custody. Horwitz asked for bail, arguing that his client had a minimal role in the conspiracy.
“Any blond model could have taken her place,” Horwitz said.
Before the jury deliberated, however, Byron had reminded jurors of a comment the woman made to company accountants in 1996: “I run the show and he’s the star.”