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BREAKING: Jury finds Premier's White guilty

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A Marion County jury this evening found Christopher P. White guilty of three Class C felonies related to a $500,000 bad check he wrote last year in a last-ditch attempt to save his locally based development firm, Premier Properties USA Inc.

After a two-day trial in Marion Superior Court and two hours of deliberations starting at 3:45 p.m. today, the jury returned with guilty verdicts on charges of fraud on a financial institution, check fraud and theft. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 23.

White, 52, could face jail time. He allegedly wrote the check to cover payroll as financial and legal troubles were mounting for the company. The check, deposited to an account at The National Bank of Indianapolis, was drawn on an account at JP Morgan Chase that never had a balance of more than $1,000, the prosecutor's office said.

George Keely, an executive at The National Bank of Indianapolis, testified that the bank quickly closed 12 accounts tied to White to limit the bank's exposure after it learned of the bad check. But White promised the bank the money was coming, so it waited several weeks before it launched a lawsuit and consulted with the prosecutor's office in March 2008. Ultimately, the bank lost about $382,000.

Defense attorney Thomas Collignon said White anticipated receiving funds from a deal in Las Vegas and that he never intended to come up short in the account.

Premier built a reputation for taking on daring projects with little margin for error, including Metropolis mall in Plainfield, but when credit markets tightened, troubles quickly mounted. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2008. A month later, a judge converted the case to Chapter 7 and ordered the company to be liquidated.
 

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  1. The $104K to CRC would go toward debts service on $486M of existing debt they already have from other things outside this project. Keystone buys the bonds for 3.8M from CRC, and CRC in turn pays for the parking and site work, and some time later CRC buys them back (with interest) from the projected annual property tax revenue from the entire TIF district (est. $415K / yr. from just this property, plus more from all the other property in the TIF district), which in theory would be about a 10-year term, give-or-take. CRC is basically betting on the future, that property values will increase, driving up the tax revenue to the limit of the annual increase cap on commercial property (I think that's 3%). It should be noted that Keystone can't print money (unlike the Federal Treasury) so commercial property tax can only come from consumers, in this case the apartment renters and consumers of the goods and services offered by the ground floor retailers, and employees in the form of lower non-mandatory compensation items, such as bonuses, benefits, 401K match, etc.

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