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Defense Says Rigas Got Adelphia Loans

March 31, 2004|From Associated Press

During cross-examination of a prosecution witness Tuesday, a defense attorney sought to show that Adelphia Communications Corp. funds transferred to founder and former Chairman John Rigas were loans the family planned to repay rather than the theft the government has alleged.

Christopher Thurner, Rigas' accountant from 1991 until early this year, testified Tuesday that Rigas and his lawyers devised a plan in which funds he borrowed from his children through a family-owned business would be repaid with his Adelphia stock after his death. The intention was to keep control of Adelphia in the family, Thurner said.

Rigas, his sons Michael and Timothy, and former Adelphia Vice President Michael Mulcahey have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy and fraud. The government alleges they concocted a scheme to loot Adelphia and mislead creditors, investors and the public.

Thurner testified Monday that from 1997 to 2002, $50 million was transferred from Adelphia to Highland Holdings, which was owned by the Rigases, then wired to John Rigas' bank account.

In questioning Thurner, Rigas lawyer Peter Fleming tried to show that since the former chairman's three sons owned 99% of Highland Holdings, these represented loans to their father.

Thurner also testified that internal memos called for the company to pay rent and expenses for apartments in New York that were owned by the Rigases.

The government has listed the rent on the apartments among the personal expenses that Adelphia was allegedly improperly covering.

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