LOS ANGELES — A man who lured investors with tales of hefty profits from ostrich farms, then used more than $1 million of their money to take vacations and produce a "Weird Al" Yankovic concert, pleaded guilty Wednesday to fraud charges.
Howard Irving Freiberg, who publicized his ostrich meat plans with public appearances, including one on Tammy Faye Bakker's talk show, entered the plea on the second day of his trial in federal court in Los Angeles.
Jurors had just heard from the trial's first witness, an elementary school teacher from Wisconsin who said he lost about $30,000 to Freiberg that he was trying to invest for his child's college education. His money was part of more than $1.5 million that prosecutors say Freiberg, 42, solicited from approximately 200 investors.
The Littlerock man pleaded guilty to 12 counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud. He faces up to 70 years in prison.
U.S. Atty. Alejandro Mayorkas said Freiberg did own a few ostriches, but nowhere near the number he claimed. Prosecutors said he concealed that fact by buying ostrich meat on the open market and selling it to restaurants, while using most of his investors' money to take vacations and produce the concert by popular parody singer Yankovic.