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Ronald Brown's Ex-Partner Indicted

Courts: Grand jury charges former associate of late Commerce secretary with diverting funds from companies to bankroll ritzy shopping sprees.

March 14, 1998|TONI LOCY | THE WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON — Nolanda S. Hill, the onetime business partner of late Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown, was indicted Friday by a federal grand jury on charges that she diverted more than $200,000 from companies she controlled to buy clothes and jewelry for herself and failed to report it as income on her tax returns.

Hill, 53, a Dallas broadcasting entrepreneur who owned WFTY-TV in Washington and another station in Massachusetts, also was charged with diverting more than $557,000 from one of her companies to her partner. Brown was her partner in that company, First International Communications Corp., which failed to put together any successful business ventures during its existence.

The nine-count indictment also charged Kenneth C. White, 49, a Maryland resident and former executive of one of her companies. The case results from an investigation by the Justice Department that was begun by former independent counsel Daniel S. Pearson. The Justice Department took over the probe after Brown died in a plane crash in Croatia in 1996 and Pearson closed his office.

The charges against Hill and White include conspiracy to defraud the IRS and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., making false statements and aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns.

One of Hill's attorneys, Courtney Simmons Elwood, said her client is innocent and "deeply regrets that the government's investigation [of Brown] has ended with unfounded charges against his former business associates."

Before his death, Brown repeatedly denied wrongdoing. His attorney, Reid H. Weingarten, said Friday the grand jury not only did not name Brown, it did not even say he was "a knowing participant in wrongdoing."

The grand jury said Hill spent thousands of dollars on trips to tropical climates and on jewelry and designer clothes at expensive stores and boutiques. She shopped at such high-priced stores as Gucci at the Watergate, Jean Claude Jitrois of Beverly Hills and Escada Boutique in Palm Beach, Fla.

During the alleged illegal activities, Hill was president of Corridor Broadcasting Corp., a Texas company that owned WFTY, as well as WHLL-TV in the Boston area.

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