Fri05222015

News

Hilltop robbery suspects implicated in crimes across Bay Area

Hilltop robbery suspects implicated in crimes across Bay Area

The three Oakland men arrested in connection to the May 11 home invasion robbery of a Hilltop Drive home are under investigation for numerous additional crimes committed across the San Francisco Bay area, the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office revea...

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Schools

Preschool matriarch steps down

Preschool matriarch steps down


Alicia Castro/Town Crier
Children’s Center Preschool Director Non Mead sits beside her granddaughter, Greta Germack, during Greta’s birthday celebration.

Non Mead is the quintessential grandmother. Wise and warm, she ties shoelaces with ...

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Community

No 'Love' for Facebook

No 'Love' for Facebook


COurtesy of TRU Love
Tru Love sent multiple messages to Facebook – and made calls to the media – before the company unlocked her account.

Tru Love’s name may be unusual, but she comes by it naturally.

If only Facebook saw it that way.

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Sports

Semi sweep

Semi sweep


Town Crier file photo
St. Francis High’s Steve Dinneen, rising up for the kill, posted 15 kills in Saturday’s CCS semifinal sweep of rival Bellarmine.

There was no letup in the Lancers. Although the St. Francis High boys volleyball team ...

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Comment

Statute of limitations: Haugh About That?

“I can’t believe he’d do this to me,” I cried hysterically. “After all we meant to each other.” Curling into a ball, torrential teenage tears melted my mascara as my entire world came crashing to an obliterated end...

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Special Sections

Cancer survivors march toward strength, hope via Relay For Life

Cancer survivors march toward strength, hope via Relay For Life


Alicia Castro/Town Crier
Cancer survivors Eileen Chun, left, and Marilyn Labetich build strength at Curves of Los Altos.

Two local women took steps toward cancer recovery by caring for themselves and celebrating alongside each other.

Eileen Chun and...

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Business

Repeat business: Répéter consignment celebrates 10 years on State Street

Repeat business: Répéter consignment celebrates 10 years on State Street


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Kellee Breaux owns Répéter, the State Street women’s consignment boutique that celebrates a decade in business Saturday.

Kellee Breaux’s life is a triangle: The 36-year-old lives in Newark, teaches full time a...

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Books

People

EDITH MAY COOPER

EDITH MAY COOPER

September 20, 1908 – April 7, 2015

Edith Cooper died peacefully in her sleep on April 7th in Los Altos, California, at the age of 106, where she had been a resident for over 30 years.

She was predeceased by Frank, her husband and her 3 brothers B...

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Travel

Flying south for the winter: Antarctica trips are not just for the birds

Flying south for the winter: Antarctica trips are not just for the birds


Photos Courtesy of Dave Hadden
Los Altos residents Dave and Joan Hadden watched the scenery from the large boat and a smaller Zodiac.

Standing on the beach with hundreds of thousands of penguins is “the experience of a lifetime,” accord...

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Stepping Out

Bye bye 'Birds'

Bye bye 'Birds'


Ray Renati/Special to the Town Crier
“Birds of a Feather” stars Troy Johnson and Diane Tasca.

Pear Avenue Theatre’s world premiere of “Birds of a Feather” is set to run through Sunday in Mountain View.

The play is the third chapter in local pla...

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Spiritual Life

Mercifully in His grip: Exploring our true position in Christ

I recently read a wonderful analogy about our true position in Christ. It was shockingly contrary to the messages impressed upon me in church, but deeply rooted in the Bible. The analogy is that of child and a parent. If you have ever taken a small ...

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Magazine

Practice prudent pruning: Maintaining manzanita, ceanothus and toyon

Practice prudent pruning: Maintaining manzanita, ceanothus and toyon


tanya kucak/Special to the Town Crier
Shrub manzanitas are known for their sinuous mahogany trunks and branches. If the foliage hides the bark, prune selectively to open the center so that the bark is visible year-round. This Montara manzanita is ...

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Inside Mountain View

Civility Roundtable opens discussion on race, policing

With racially charged unrest shaking places like Ferguson, Mo., New York City and Baltimore, the Mountain View Human Relations Commission posed a question: “How can we prevent Ferguson from happening in Mountain View?”

Nearly 150 residen...

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Seeking answers, local investors remain uncertain whom to trust

Bearing canes and worn leather briefcases, local seniors were among those filing into a San Jose courtroom Friday to watch the Los Altos man they’d entrusted with their savings argue his innocence.

The Securities and Exchange Commission alleges that the investors are victims of a Ponzi-like scheme. But some don’t want to believe they’ve all been hoodwinked. If the government is right, they’ve lost their dream of 7.5 percent annual returns, and a good chunk of their initial investment.

Mark Feathers, founder of the Los Altos-based Small Business Capital Corp., continues to maintain that the investments were safe, performing and could still be salvaged.

Some of those who sank money into SB Capital were seasoned investors, but many were financially inexperienced local residents looking to invest relatively small nest eggs. They faced the question: Do you trust the funds manager who paid you steady returns throughout the recession, or the court-appointed receiver delivering bad news?

The confusion, anger and lingering hope aired outside the courtroom last week demonstrated intriguing loyalty to a man, Feathers, accused of dissipating others’ money while lining his own pockets.

Seeking answers

One couple attended the hearing wondering how to plan, on a fixed income, for frozen investment funds and uncertain losses. They had written the court saying that without access to the principal and interest of the $50,000 they invested with Feathers, they were relying on Social Security and “needed the funds badly” for basic living expenses. The husband, an 88-year-old Los Gatos resident, asked that the Town Crier not reveal his name, as did every investor interviewed. He said watching his remaining savings account tick down filled him with worry, and joked wistfully about finding a job.

The couple found Feathers’ company through an ad in the San Jose Mercury News. SB Capital, which had also advertised in the Los Altos Town Crier, teased an investment opportunity that was “easy to grasp” and “Wall Street-free.”

SB Capital staff included fixtures from the Los Altos banking scene with deep roots in the area. Feathers developed relationships through personal and sometimes fanciful events, including an annual investor dinner he and his wife once hosted in period costume.

“You invest with someone you like, after you meet them,” the wife of the Los Gatos investor told the Town Crier.

Striking courtroom scene

Clutching a worn, green paper folder thick with documents, Feathers sat alone at the front of the courtroom last week, flanked by six representatives of his opposition. As he delivered lengthy explanations of where he believed the SEC had gone wrong, some of his alleged victims laughed along with his jokes and flashed thumbs-up gestures of encouragement.

U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila denied the majority of Feathers’ motions and took pains to explain to Feathers and onlookers in the courtroom why he was ruling as he did.

The hearing addressed Feathers’ efforts to dismiss the case, discredit the SEC and gain access to $30,000 for six months of living expenses from his frozen assets. He was granted the money but otherwise didn’t prevail.

Feathers referenced letters of support sent to the judge. Davila explained that he couldn’t read any of the approximately 75 letters received regarding the case because they would constitute ex parte communication. Judges are expected to refrain from interacting with third parties in a case, which means investors don’t have much say in the proceedings.

Feathers has written prolifically to investors since the SEC seized his company in June 2012, making dramatic arguments about the SEC’s alleged overstepping, misleading and persecutory actions.

Over the weekend, he wrote another missive sprinkled with dire analysis of the SEC’s intervention and excerpts from court documents, claiming that “YOU ARE NOW AN UNWILLING PARTICIPANT IN A FULL-ON GOVERNMENT SCANDAL” and urged investors to write to local elected officials. Feathers, who describes himself as waging a “David and Goliath” battle for his innocence, wrote to investors that “If SEC wins, you lose.”

The SEC shuttered Los Altos-based SB Capital ostensibly to protect two groups of people: those who had already invested, whose money was allegedly being fraudulently depleted; and those who were considering an investment but had not yet committed their money.

The court receiver managing the seized funds claims that of the $46 million invested, approximately $12 million was “dissipated” through Ponzi-like activities.

The phrase “Ponzi-like” refers to the practice of taking more and more investor money to pay false “returns” to existing investors. In the case of Charles Ponzi, whose scheme first inspired the moniker, no legitimate business underlay the transfers of money.

Use of the phrase caused audible reactions of distress and disgust from some onlookers in the courtroom last week. Some of Feathers’ investors continue to question how a company could be labeled “Ponzi-like” when it maintained a portfolio of more than 60 performing investments. Some wondered if the SEC fully understood the specialty investments SB Capital made in partnership with the Small Business Administration.

The court receiver’s reports provide financial analyses that purport to assess those operations fairly. The SEC maintains that although SB Capital did carry out its stated business purpose – issuing loans using investor money – Feathers’ business spent more money than it generated, meaning that over time investor money was lost.

Stuck between a rock and a hard place

When the hearing recessed, a crowd of investors gathered in the hallway outside Davila’s courtroom, peppering the SEC’s lead prosecutor, John Bulgozdy, with questions that ranged from plaintive to indignant.

Investors already locked into SB Capital stand to lose no matter how the court rules. If Feathers committed the alleged fraud, their money has been at least partially lost. But even if he is innocent, the receiver dismantling the company has still only salvaged a fraction of the money invested, and has drastically changed the way the business operates.

The millions of dollars that remain locked in SB Capital-related accounts may start to change hands by late summer. Investors and creditors must submit claims to the receiver by May 10.

How much of the $42 million in investments may ultimately survive remains unknown, but based on the preliminary forensic accounting, investors like the Los Gatos couple may expect to recover 50 to 75 percent of their money.

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