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Woman Jailed on Charges of Bilking Foreign TV Reporters

July 10, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ Journalists from three countries and Connecticut were scrambling to find housing for the Olympics after a rental agent was thrown in jail for allegedly taking more than $1 million from them.

Meggen Mills, 33, was arrested on seven counts of theft by deception after the reporters from at least seven news agencies confronted her at her apartment complex, demanding their money back.

She remained in jail today on $100,000 bond after a hearing Tuesday, when she was accused of reneging on a contract to provide the journalists with apartments, mobile phones and rental cars.

With the opening ceremonies for the Summer Games slated to begin on July 19, housing is extremely tight in Atlanta. Most hotels and many apartments were booked a year ago for the games.

The reporters work for television stations in Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Connecticut.

They said they had given Ms. Mills more than $1 million, but when they arrived here, some got only half the apartments they had requested.

``Am I angry? Oh yes, very much,″ said Wilson Medeiros, international event coordinator for the Brazilian TV network Bandeirantes.

``We’re here to cover an important event and we’re stuck (in court) trying to take care of apartments,″ he said.

The reporters described Ms. Mills as a representative of Corporate Key Companies, an Atlanta rental agency.

Her lawyer Bruce Morris said she is from Dallas.

Morris said Ms. Mills, who was arrested Monday, was working feverishly to find rooms for the journalists, but can’t do it while she is in jail.

``She doesn’t have enough rooms yet,″ he said. ``Some of these people have paid for 30 rooms, and they have gotten 20. That does not a crime make. If you keep her in jail, everyone is going to lose everything.″

Police could not account for about $500,000 paid to Ms. Mills, and they were trying to sort out how many rooms were still needed, said Marko Burgar, assistant city solicitor.

Michelle Naili, executive producer of TV Globo of Brazil, arrived two weeks ago and said she still needs about 40 more rooms. She said she paid Ms. Mills for telephone service, but the service was cut off Tuesday.

``She broke us,″ Naili said. ``My company trusted me to make all the accommodations and now I’m broke.″

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