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Thomas Root, Others Charged with Securities Fraud

June 5, 1990

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ A lawyer whose private plane crashed into the Atlantic last year with him wounded at the controls was charged Monday with 455 counts of securities fraud and related charges.

A Nash County grand jury returned indictments with a total of 2,695 counts against Thomas Root, Sonrise Management Services, Telemedia Inc. and three other men identified as co-owners of the two businesses.

The charges stem from claims allegedly made by Sonrise that investors would get help applying for federal licenses for radio stations.

In announcing the indictment, North Carolina Secretary of State Rufus Edmisten said only a handful of the company’s investors ever received licenses from the Federal Communications Commission.

Root’s attorney, Eugene Propper, said from Washington, D.C., he couldn’t comment in detail on the indictment, ″except to say that my client is not guilty of any securities fraud.″

The companies named no longer maintain offices in the area.

Edmisten said: ″In all, 1,018 people in North Carolina contributed more than $8 million to this organization. Nationally, more than $16 million was invested by people from 25 states.″

Root, a Washington-area lawyer who has been indicted on federal charges involving his work for Sonrise, drew national attention in July 1989 after he reported blacking out in the cockpit of his single-engine plane on a flight from Washington to Rocky Mount.

He was followed by military planes during the 800-mile odyssey down the East Coast which ended when he crashed in Bahamian waters off Florida. Rescuers pulled Root from the ocean and discovered he had been shot in the abdomen.

It was never determined exactly how he was injured.

Root told investigators he could recall nothing after reporting by radio that he was having trouble breathing. He said he did not know how he got shot, but said the wound was not self-inflicted.

Edmisten said his office, which regulates the securities industry in North Carolina, had been investigating Sonrise for more than two years.

The others charged were SMS Chairman Ralph Savage, SMS President Eugene White and Carl Hurlebaus, who is co-owner of Telemedia Inc. with White and Savage.

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