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Ex-Publisher Faces Probe in $1.3-Million Fraud Case

May 21, 1986|From a Times Staff Writer

The publisher of a defunct Orange County business magazine is being investigated by the Riverside County district attorney's office for allegedly defrauding a 79-year-old retired schoolteacher of nearly $1.3 million in stocks and bonds.

Steven M. Sullivan, former publisher of Liberty Street Chronicle and a former stockbroker, also has been named in a civil suit filed in Orange County Superior Court. In her suit, Margaret Van Luven, a San Jacinto resident, is seeking $4.5 million in damages from Sullivan and several other defendants, including J. David Securities, where Sullivan worked as a senior vice president in the firm's Newport Beach office.

The criminal investigation by the Riverside County district attorney's office began last month and is expected to last until late June, Randall Tagami, supervising district attorney, said.

Tagami said that his office obtained a search warrant May 2 and used it to authorize seizure of business records from Sullivan's Newport Beach home and his former business at the Liberty Street Chronicle in Irvine.

Neither Sullivan nor Van Luven were available for comment late Tuesday.

Van Luven's attorney, Ronald B. Coulombe, said Tuesday that his client is "very disturbed" by the matter.

"There is a question of forgery on many documents," Coulombe alleged.

In the 50-page lawsuit, Van Luven claims that in 1983, before entering the hospital for medical treatment, she entrusted Sullivan, as her stockbroker, with about $660,000 in negotiable bonds and $440,000 in stocks for safekeeping.

When Van Luven asked for the money back several months later, the lawsuit claims, Sullivan convinced her that she should wait. Then, in 1985, when she again asked for the money back, the suit alleges, she was told that the value of her account with Sullivan had dwindled to $42,000 from $1.3 million.

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