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Man Sentenced to 4 Years for Defrauding Investors

January 18, 2001|SABRINA DECKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 43-year-old Littlerock man was sentenced to four years in prison after admitting to defrauding 200 investors in an ostrich meat scheme, officials said Wednesday.

In a sentence handed down this week, U.S. District Judge Carlos R. Moreno also ordered Howard Freiberg to pay $1.6 million in restitution, according to Assistant U.S. Atty. Pamela Johnston.

Freiberg bought interests in some ostrich commodities from 1993 to 1995, Johnston said, but not in the amounts represented to investors. Freiberg then used the investments for vacations, and produced a concert for "Weird Al" Yankovic, she said.

At Freiberg's trial last summer, Dan Kerkoff told jurors he planned to use the money he made speculating on ostrich meat to send his son to college.

Instead, Kerkoff, an elementary school teacher from Wisconsin, lost all of the $30,000 he believed he had invested with a Littlerock securities dealer, and his son joined the National Guard.

After Kerkoff testified, Freiberg changed his plea and admitted defrauding 200 investors--who were initially told they would receive a 200% to 400% return on their investments.

Ostrich filets reached a high of $30 per pound in 1995. They now sell for $13.99 per pound at most.

According to Johnston, such cases of misrepresentation are not at all unusual.

"Southern California is the home of many good things, but it is also the home of many investor fraud scams," Johnston said. "Investors need to carefully check out what they are going to invest in."

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