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Jury Returns Guilty Verdict For Accountant

December 20, 1988

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ An accountant for a carpet-cleaning company that bilked investors out of millions of dollars was convicted Monday after jurors determined he accepted a bribe from company founder Barry Minkow.

Norman Rothberg, 52, was convicted of one count of conspiracy - taking a bribe to cover up ZZZZ Best’s frauds - and four counts of mail fraud.

The 22-year-old Minkow, who was 16 when he created the ZZZZ Best carpet cleaning company in his parents’ garage, was convicted by the same jury last week of 57 counts of fraud.

Ten other defendants pleaded guilty to various charges.

Jurors deliberated heard four months of testimony about the $25 million swindle that snared Wall Street brokerages, major banks and small investors. Before his downfall, Minkow gained wide publicity as an apparent boy genius in business.

Convicting young Minkow ″wasn’t something that was easy,″ said jury foreman Mel Tiedemann, 32, after the trial ended. ″I had to separate my emotions from my decision.″

He noted that Minkow was ″just a kid″ and said, ″I wanted to let him go. But I felt in my bones the guy was guilty.″

The Securities and Exchange Commission, a federal grand jury and the Police Department remained involved Monday in investigations centered on the Minkow case.

Last year, Police Chief Daryl Gates described ZZZZ Best as one of several local companies linked to money laundering and drug trafficking by East Coast crime families.

Police Department spokesman Cmdr. William Booth said the 17-month-old statements are ″still valid and the investigation is continuing.″

Federal prosecutors say their work on the case now involves the more complex securities fraud side, exploring such issues as whether insider information was illegally used to profit from trading in ZZZZ Best stock.

During the trial, Minkow claimed that he was exploited by mobsters who infiltrated his business.

Sentencing for Minkow was set for February, and sentencing for Rothberg was set for March.

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