Crosby: I wrote the letter'
By By Suzanne Monk/The Meridian Star
April 6, 2001
It was just before 5 p.m. when the government called its final witness of the day Michael G. Crosby of Payne-Webber in Meridian, who prepared C.D. "Bubba" Newell's 1994 and 1995 tax returns.
The jury and spectators settled in for a little, comparatively speaking, uncomplicated testimony about Newell's alleged tax evasion.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Harold Brittain finished reviewing the returns with Crosby. Newell's attorney, Henry Palmer, began his cross-examination, picking away at possible bias and prejudice on the part of the witness.
Then he floated out a blue-sky question about the authorship of an anonymous letter sent to Comcast in 1996, accusing Primestar regional manager David Colvin of stealing from the company.
The letter subject of so much speculation over the years led to an internal Comcast audit and ultimately resulted in the indictment of four defendants standing trial in U.S. District Court on charges ranging from mail fraud to tax evasion to money-laundering.
Colvin and his co-defendants are alleged to have defrauded Comcast of $2.6 million in a false billing scheme between January 1994 and August 1996.
C.D. "Bubba" Newell
At one time, Crosby testified, he was a close friend of both Newell and Colvin. He prepared their tax returns, and the three men had business interests in common.
His friendship with Colvin ended in October 1993 after an unspecified incident at Crosby's wife's workplace Comcast cable television.
He also testified that Newell approached him with a plan to use a company called J.K. Kittman Business Machines to contract business with Comcast-Primestar. The company was jointly owned by Crosby, Newell's wife, Catherine, and a friend of Newell's who lived in Atlanta.
The conversation between Crosby and Bubba Newell, as told in court, allegedly occurred in early 1993.
Newell has been indicted for wire and mail fraud, money-laundering and tax evasion. Colvin testified that it was Newell who originally came up with the idea to defraud Comcast using Colvin's American Express card.
Graham was the manager of a Comcast satellite sales office in Waynesboro.
The federal government alleges that he created false reimbursement invoices and submitted them to Comcast for repayment. Graham maintains that this was a billing practice requested by Colvin.
Attorney Charlie Wright used his cross-examination of Comcast auditor Sharon Desmond to draw a parallel between Graham and Herb Bruister. At the time, Bruister managed a Comcast satellite installation office in Philadelphia. Bruister's office was investigated in the course of Comcast's internal audit.
Wright established that, during the period covered by the indictment, Bruister billed Comcast for over $400,000 using similar procedures.
Bruister, however, was not charged with a crime and Comcast did not sever its relationship with him.
Desmond also confirmed that Graham returned $160,000 to Comcast during the audit, and that Comcast has never paid money owed on outstanding Graham invoices.
Graham has filed a lawsuit in Lauderdale County Circuit Court seeking payment of what he contends is outstanding debt.
Raley is a contractor who worked on construction projects for Colvin at three sites: 1) his home on Lindley Road; 2) a house at Dogwood Lake; and 3) a rental property.
He has been indicted for mail/wire fraud and money-laundering.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Anderson called Raley's accountant, Rachel Williams, to the stand. Williams owns Sadka Accounting and Tax Service and maintains financial records related to Raley's work.
She said she was aware that Raley was receiving large checks from American Express.
Williams said Raley would receive checks from American Express, which he would then convert to a number of cashier's checks to pay Colvin's bills at local businesses.
Prosecutors allege that over $1 million passed through Raley's account in this manner, and that the act constitutes money-laundering.
Gianakos is the owner of Gianakos Associates, a public relations firm that did business with Comcast and Comcast-Primestar. She has been indicted for wire/mail fraud and money-laundering. Taken in balance, she had a pretty quiet day in court.
Suzanne Monk is managing editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
U.S. District Judge Tom Lee told the jury that attorneys for both sides have set a goal to complete the case by the end of next week but he did reserve the right to hold a Saturday session if the trial bogs down.
Kary Graham's defense team has a new member, forensic accountant Jack Sykes of Pearl. On the prosecution side, the government's money-laundering expert is an IRS agent not an FBI agent. His name is Raymond Gregson, and he is expected to testify.
Comcast auditor Sharon Desmond stood up fairly well during her two days of testimony. It was not until just before noon
Thursday that she visibly rolled her eyes in response to a question from attorney Charlie Wright.
In a small struggle for dominance, Desmond and attorney Frank Trapp clashed over the use of the words "controller" and "comptroller."
Several local business owners testified about purchases charged on David Colvin's American Express card. In one case, Colvin spent more than $6,000 on bed-clothes for a bedroom at his Dogwood Lake house.