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Man is charged in skater's drugging

May 23, 2008|Kim Christensen | Times Staff Writer

A Santa Ana man accused in civil lawsuits of defrauding investors of $20 million now faces a criminal charge of drugging a former Olympic figure skater in a foiled attempt to sexually assault her, according to a complaint filed by the Orange County district attorney's office.

An arrest warrant was issued Wednesday for James R. Halstead, a 61-year-old insurance salesman who faces one felony count of giving a "narcotic, anesthetic and intoxicating agent" to an unwitting woman identified in the complaint as "Oksana G."

An Orange County Sheriff's Department spokesman confirmed Thursday that the alleged victim was Oksana Grishuk, 36, who won two gold medals for Russia in the 1990s.

On April 12, she told investigators that she had been drugged during a business meeting with a male acquaintance at a hotel in Dana Point. While sipping wine, she noticed a pill at the bottom of her glass and began to feel ill, said Jim Amormino, the sheriff's spokesman.

Tests determined that the pill was similar to Rohypnol, commonly used as a date-rape drug, Amormino said.

Halstead remained at large Thursday, Amormino said.

Reached by telephone, Halstead called the complaint "ridiculous" but would not discuss the allegations.

In the early 1990s, Halstead and another man were charged with bilking investors of more than $1 million in a scheme to sell crude oil and German bank shares. Halstead later teamed with his defense attorney in that case, Irvine securities lawyer Jeanne M. Rowzee, in an investment strategy known as private investment in public equities, or PIPEs.

He and Rowzee took in tens of millions of dollars from individual investors but put none of the money into the PIPEs, according to civil lawsuits.

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kim.christensen@latimes.com

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