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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary

Investment Scam Suspect May Have Left Country

August 16, 2000

LOS ANGELES — A man who pleaded no contest in connection with an investment scam that falsely claimed to have ties to actor Arnold Schwarzenegger is believed to have fled to Germany, authorities said Tuesday.

Officials for the state Department of Corporations, which is handling the case, said a bench warrant has been issued for the arrest of Thomas Leonard Beirith, who was facing a two-year prison term.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge revoked Beirith's $150,000 bail last week, along with his negotiated no-contest plea. He now faces the maximum sentence on the charges if he is brought back to the United States, officials said.

Beirith and co-defendant Scott Steven Engel operated Metropolis Premiere Inc., which claimed to have business connections with Schwarzenegger and Alan Ladd Jr. The company represented to potential investors that it wanted to develop movie sequels titled "Terminator 3" and "Independence Day 2000," officials said.

Engel has pleaded no contest to multiple counts of securities fraud and grand theft, and was sentenced Friday to three months in jail and five years probation. He and Beirith were ordered to make full restitution to all known investors.

Attorneys for the state said the elaborate investment scam tried to solicit investments of up to $5 million from Pepperdine University students and alumni, among other people.

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