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Former Opera Director Pleads Guilty to Fraud

July 24, 1986|ROXANE ARNOLD | Times Staff Writer

The former general director of the now-defunct Los Angeles Metropolitan Opera Co. has pleaded guilty to 13 felony charges stemming from a scheme to find financial backers for a 1984 production of "Aida," officials with the state Department of Corporations said.

At least 29 investors lost a total of more than $100,000 on the ill-fated opera, said Gloria M. Richards-Johnson, a staff attorney with the corporations department. The production, which was scheduled to be staged during the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, never was presented.

In his futile effort to stage the program, general director Huey R. Weathersby sold investment contracts and limited partnerships to the public despite an order prohibiting him from doing so. Moreover, he failed to obtain necessary permits and neglected to inform potential investors of the problems, Richards-Johnson said.

According to court documents filed in connection with the case, some investors put up as much as $20,000 on the promise that they would receive a 30% return on their investment. They were not repaid, the documents showed.

"He failed to give the investment public material information," Richards-Johnson said.

In soliciting money for the opera, Weathersby made a series of false statements to investors, including claims that the Coca-Cola Co. had pledged $80,000 and that some top political figures in Los Angeles were part of the opera company, Richards-Johnson said in court statements.

The opera production was canceled when the financially troubled company reportedly failed to raise enough money. Only about $20,000 in tickets were sold.

Weathersby, who had produced five other operas, resigned from his post after the cancellation.

He pleaded guilty earlier this month to 11 counts of fraud in connection with the scheme, one count of selling securities without a permit and one count of violating a corporations department order.

Neither Weathersby nor his attorney could be reached for comment.

Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 1.

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