Thu10022014

News

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics


The Town Crier chronicled the first election of Los Altos City Council incumbent Jarrett Fishpaw in 2010 and documented the Los Altos candidacy of Jean Mordo, who volunteered as a longtime public servant in Los Altos Hills before moving to the flat...

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Schools

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system


Courtesy of St. Simon Parish School
St. Simon fifth-grader Matthew Cummins uses a laptop in class last week. The school’s cloud-based Schoology system boosts organization and collaboration.

Families at St. Simon Parish School in Los Altos laun...

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Community

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'


Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos main library is among the more popular branches in the county library district system, set to celebrate 100 years.

In 1914, Babe Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox, wages hit $5 per day, the first ste...

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Sports

Eagles eye another stellar season

Eagles eye another stellar season


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High outside hitter Carmen Annevelink, right, goes for the kill Thursday against Palo Alto, as teammates Sarah Tritschler, left, and Lulu Kishton prepare to play defense. The Eagles won the match in straight ga...

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Comment

Torok, Walter, Dave for MVLA board: Editorial

There’s really nothing major you can criticize about the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District. It offers a diverse array of effective programs for all types of students. Its instructors, with few exceptions, are outstanding.

Howe...

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Special Sections

'Funabout' Fiat

'Funabout' Fiat


Photos courtesy of Fiat
The 2014 Fiat 500e uses 29 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, which the engineers claim is the equivalent of 116 mpg of gas use. It has a sticker price of $33,095.

If you believe in climate change, would love to see alternat...

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Business

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground


Ted Fagenson

An East Bay app developer is testing his newest creation in downtown Los Altos.

Ted Fagenson, co-founder of Skrownge (pronounced “scrounge”), told the Town Crier that he’s beta testing his mobile gaming app this week ...

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Books

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween


Courtesy of Dee Ellmann
Jenny Hurwick self-published her picture book last month after decades of storytelling.

During her years working as a teacher and a Los Altos mom, Jenny Hurwick loved to tell stories. One tale she crafted for her son just se...

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People

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

July 27, 1953 – August 12, 2014

Native Los Altan died Medford, OR. Graduated Bellarmine Prep. Married Josephine Domino, 1950. Licensed Auto Mechanic, Private Pilot, skilled Computer Scientist. Tim “could fix anything”. Afflicted with cancer 2001. ...

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Travel

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup


Rich Robertson/Special to the Town Crier
The sun sets over the Aegean Sea in Bodrum, Turkey, left.

Tours that whisk you from Istanbul to Bodrum in 11 days are as plentiful as souvenir hawkers in Turkey, but traveling from the Blue Mosque to Topkapi ...

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Stepping Out

'Gypsy' on its way out

'Gypsy' on its way out


Chris Berger/Special to the Town Crier
Alison Koch of Los Altos plays Dainty June in “Gypsy.”

This is the final weekend to catch the Sunnyvale Community Players production of “Gypsy” at the Sunnyvale Theatre. The musical is slated to close Sund...

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Spiritual Life

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Herman Lukwago educates children in Uganda.

Imagine life if your father had 25 children and you were raised in poverty in rural Uganda.

Now imagine that you and your siblings were orphaned at an early age and you ass...

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Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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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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