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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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