Accountant Disputes Claims Against Jackson
Jul. 12, 2006
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) _ A forensic accountant hired by Michael Jackson's lawyer testified Wednesday that a former associate who is now suing the singer used money from a Japanese record production company for the down payment on his own $1.9 million home rather than for the business expenses he claimed.
Jan Goren, who showed jurors how he traced millions of dollars through the various bank accounts of F. Marc Schaffel, also said he found no substantiation for a $300,000 payment Schaffel claimed he provided to a mysterious ``Mr. X'' in South America on Jackson's behalf.
The testimony was presented as the trial neared the closing arguments phase. Schaffel's lawsuit claims Jackson owes him $1.6 million for various endeavors he worked on for the pop star.
Jackson's side has sought to show Schaffel enriched himself at the singer's expense, outweighing any sums that might actually be owed.
Goren challenged Schaffel's claim that he received $400,000 from a Japanese company called Music Fighters which was seeking to buy rights to Jackson's ``What More Can I Give,'' an ill-fated charity recording intended to raise money for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Schaffel had testified that he split the amount with Jackson, each taking $200,000, but maintained that he used his half to pay business expenses.
Goren said according to his financial detective work that was not true.
He said the $400,000 was wired by Music Fighters on Feb. 27, 2002, to Neverland Valley Entertainment, a company Schaffel started with Jackson, and the next day it was transferred into Schaffel's personal account.
The accountant noted that in a deposition Schaffel said Jackson was given $200,000 in cash and the rest was kept in the Neverland Valley account to pay bills.
``That did not happen,'' said the witness.
``Is there any support that 200,000 (dollars) went out to Mr. Jackson?'' asked Thomas Mundell, Jackson's attorney.
``Nothing,'' said the witness.
Goren then used an easel and marker to trace Schaffel's home purchase, showing the down payment, escrow fees, mortgages and the full price of the home at $1.9 million. He said the source of the down payment was the personal money market account, ``and 400,000 that went into that account was Music Fighters money.''
On the purported delivering of $300,000 to ``Mr. X'' in South America, Goren testified that Schaffel never claimed the amount until this year and ``there is no check, no moneys leaving a bank ... no bank statements, no ledgers.''
``I have nothing that corroborates it from a documentary point of view,'' he said.
He noted that the entry was coded ``EFT,'' which refers to an electronic fund transfer to another account. But he said the amount was never transferred to or from any account.
``My conclusion on this is it is not a valid claim,'' Goren said.