Entrepreneur Sentenced in Ostrich Scheme

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Scientology Swindles!

Entrepreneur Sentenced in Ostrich Scheme
Updated: Thu, Jan 18 10:31 AM EST

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Investors thought they were buying into lucrative ostrich farms as seen on Tammy Faye Bakker Messner's syndicated television talk show.

Instead, a scheming entrepreneur -- who appeared as a guest on the evangelist's show extolling the virtues of feathers, leather, and protein-rich meat -- secretly used the cash he reaped hawking ostriches to produce a money-losing concert by accordion satirist "Weird Al" Yankovic, among other things.

On Wednesday, Howard Irving Freiberg, 43, was sentenced in a Los Angeles federal court to more than four years in prison, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Freiberg, 43, was also ordered to pay restitution of more than $1.5 million after pleading guilty to 12 counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud, all of the charges contained in an indictment returned by a grand jury last year.

In his guilty plea, Freiberg admitted to soliciting more than $1.5 million from 200 investors with the promise that the money would be used to raise ostriches that would later be sold for their high-protein, low-fat meat and byproducts.

In reality, while Freiberg did own a small number of ostriches near his Littlerock, Calif., home, he used most of the investor money to take vacations, gamble in Las Vegas casinos, produce Yankovic's show, and pay for other personal pursuits, Assistant U.S. Attorney Pamela Johnston said.

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