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Bloch Admits Lying to Investors

September 19, 1996|From Associated Press

NEWARK, N.J. — Irwin H. "Sonny" Bloch, who once claimed a million listeners for his call-in financial show, admitted in court Wednesday that he was a paid pitchman for ventures he touted as good investments but knew were worthless.

Prosecutors say the schemes Bloch endorsed on the radio--ranging from wireless cable and radio stations to precious metals--cost investors more than $21 million.

"Investors had as much chance of making money on the radio investments as of finding a radio station in their backyard," said U.S. Atty. Faith S. Hochberg.

Bloch, 60, pleaded guilty to nine felony charges, including fraud and conspiracy, and faces the possibility of dozens of years in prison and millions of dollars in fines. He earlier pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion and perjury charges. No sentencing dates have been set for Bloch, his son and five others who have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with authorities. Four former Bloch associates still face charges, but no trial date has been set.

Pending lawsuits by cheated investors and the Securities and Exchange Commission seek to recover money. The SEC has already won judgments and reached settlements totaling more than $5 million to make restitution to victims.

In addition, the government has frozen Bloch's assets, as well as those of his family and their businesses, with the goal of returning the money to investors. Those assets have yet to be valued.

"The Sonny Bloch Show" was on the air for 15 years, broadcast six days a week on 170 stations.

Bloch had lived in Tampa, Fla., but began broadcasting from the Dominican Republic in March 1995 as federal investigators were looking into his operations. He was arrested in the Dominican Republic in May 1995, and has remained in federal custody.

Bloch said he induced listeners to spend money by suggesting he had investigated the ventures, when he had not, and was promoting them to enrich himself and his co-conspirators. He admitted:

* Using his broadcasts, from August 1993 to March 1995, to promote questionable investments in these wireless ventures: Southern Tennessee Wireless Cable in Hohenwald, Tenn.; Greater Columbia Basin Wireless Cable in Kennewick, Wash.; and Global Wireless and World Wireless in Barquisimeto, Venezuela.

* Participating with others from 1993 to March 1995 to promote and sell interests in Bloch Broadcasting Co. and three radio stations--WBDN in Brandon, Fla.; WGGG in Gainesville, Fla.; and WCNX in Middlesex County, Conn.--when he and the others knew that the stations were losing money or used exaggerated financial claims.

* Having telemarketers prey upon investors in the wireless schemes by urging them to also invest in the radio stations.

* Telling listeners from February 1992 to August 1994 to buy precious metals from a Pennsylvania firm, DeAngelis Bros., by falsely stating he had made similar investments.

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