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News

Hills man arrested on molestation charges

Hills man arrested on molestation charges

Gregory Helfrich

Santa Clara Sheriff’s detectives have arrested a Los Altos Hills man they suspect repeatedly molested a child decades ago.

Detectives arrested Gregory Helfrich, 54, on a warrant at his Old Page Mill Road home April 27 and...

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Schools

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students


Courtesy of Jessica Harell
Blach Intermediate School seventh-grader Paris Harrell, who loves science and animals, recently received a scholarship from the local branch of the AAUW to attend Tech Trek camp.

It’s not every day that a junior hig...

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Community

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner


Federici

Longtime Los Altos resident Mario Federici, who turned 98 Feb. 24, is a man of many languages. He shared his knowledge with thousands of students during his long career as a teacher.

Federici was born and raised in Italy, where he stud...

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Comment

Attend an event, get involved, have fun: Editorial

You don’t have to run for city council to get involved in the community. Sometimes it can be as simple as attending a Los Altos event. You’ll have plenty of opportunities, as the May and June calendars are bustling with activity.

The Dow...

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Special Sections

Racing around Monterey

Racing around Monterey


Gary Anderson/Special to the Town Crier
The easy handling of the VW Golf R, above, makes for an ideal ride along the Big Sur coast.

 

When automotive journalists are asked to list their favorite places in the world to drive, Monterey alway...

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Business

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations


Courtesy of Eureka
Eureka, a new restaurant in downtown Mountain View, highlights local craft beer and whiskeys on a menu of food spanning from sea to farm.

Craft beer and fancy whiskeys headline the menu at Eureka, the new restaurant that opene...

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People

Stepping Out

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'


Courtesy of Palo Alto Players
The Baker’s Wife, left, and Cinderella’s erstwhile Prince stand out in the Palo Alto Players production of “Into the Woods.”

Little Red Riding Hood sets forth at the outset of “Into the...

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Spiritual Life

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International


Courtesy of Los ALtos United Methodist Church
Hidden Villa will bring some of its farm animals to Los Altos United Methodist Church Sunday to support the nonprofit Heifer International.

Los Altos United Methodist Church is scheduled to salute th...

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Both sides move for decision in Ponzi case

In what may prove a last barrage of documents, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Los Altos resident Mark Feathers filed dueling requests for a judge’s final decision last month.

Feathers, accused of misleading investors in the funds he managed, asked U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila for a summary judgment exonerating him.

His Los Altos-based company, SB Capital Corp., managed two funds that had gathered approximately $42 million from investors over the past five years. When the SEC seized them in June, an appointed receiver assessed the funds’ holdings at approximately 75 percent of their stated value, suggesting that investors lost some but not all of their money.

SEC prosecutor John Bulgozdy seeks more than $12.3 million from Feathers, the amount approximately representing what his 400 investors stand to lose as the business is dismantled, plus a $300,000 additional penalty. Bulgozdy did not suggest that Feathers necessarily had that money among his assets, currently frozen by the court.

In its case, the SEC depicts SB Capital as a company that had lost money on underperforming investments in recent years.

Bulgozdy presented evidence that Feathers had moved money around the business to disguise losses, present investors with the appearance of success and continue to pay himself.

Feathers, in turn, submitted documentation of SB Capital investor correspondence that he believes demonstrates that his company operated transparently and with investor notification and approval.

At the heart of the case lie questions of comprehension: Did investors understand, read and sign documents concurring with SB Capital’s business practices; and did the company break the law even if it had investor support?

Investor approval or deception?

One document, an SB Capital mailing introduced as evidence, illustrates the contending interpretations heard in court. In it, Feathers cheerily stated that fund note investments were “performing as agreed” but requested that investors sign a form allowing the company to make a loan to itself, or, as he defined it, “assume any deficit to the note amount through a receivable to the fund.” He assured them that “this action will not likely have any material bearing on future fund member earnings.”

According to the SEC’s interpretation, Feathers sought to borrow funds so that he could continue to return interest at a rate approaching 7.5 percent and fund his business, even as the investments failed to perform. Feathers alleged that this act of borrowing was explained in writing, but some investors interviewed by the SEC claimed they absolutely did not understand that their investments were not performing as well as returns seemed to indicate.

Campbell resident Robert Morris described investing larger and larger increments of money with Feathers’ company, as his account statements showed a rosy rate of return each month. He reinvested that return, sinking himself deeper into the enterprise.

“At no time did I understand that I was being asked to approve (SB Capital) borrowing money from IPF (Investors Prime Fund) or SPF (SBC Portfolio Fund), nor did I understand that I was being asked to ratify prior borrowing from the two funds,” he wrote in a declaration.

Decoding assets and liabilities

In addition to arguing that he fully met disclosure requirements, Feathers counters in his court filing that the borrowed money was used properly as “reimbursement of expense or for monies to be spent for expenses.”

David Gruebele, a consultant who worked with SB Capital on accounting issues, explained in a declaration that because SB Capital borrowed the money as a “due from” or manager’s note, it was recorded as an “asset” of the funds rather than an expense.

“I advised Mr. Feathers that (the funds) had distributed more to investors than the funds’ income at that point in time,” Gruebele said. “In response, Mr. Feathers usually assured me that additional income was going to be generated in the near future from new transactions that would balance the overdistributions and/or generate net management. From early 2010 through early 2012, the amount owed by (SB Capital) to the funds grew by millions of dollars.”

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