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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fund Executives Testify in Bishop Trial

News summary by MFWire's editors

The trial of "The Bishop" started this week in Chicago. The case will resolve the fate of John Patrick Tomkins of Dubuque, Iowa who stands accused of sending pipe bonds to mutual fund firms, including Friess Associates, Weitz Funds, Yacktman Funds, Janus and American Century.

The case is being tried in Federal Court in Chicago and Tomkins is acting as his own lawyer. He made no opening statement during the first day of the trial and pled "not guilty" to the charges. Tomkins later cross-examined the five witness called by the prosecution during the trial's first day.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Pope argued that Tomkins gathered information about people that he could use to threaten them, reports the Associated Press.

"This is a case about a man who wanted money and who terrorized people in order to get it," Pope told the jury according to Bloomberg. "When he didnít get it, the defendant grew bolder and the threats got worse."

Pope showed a photo of the house of a secretary's home in suburban Chicago that was sent with a letter that stated: "Do you know who lives there? I do." In another letter "The Bishop" wrote:
"BANG!! YOUíRE DEAD. Stop and think about that for a second. The only reason you are still alive is because I did not attach one wire . . . there is enough gunpowder and steel shot in that red tube to kill anyone in a 10 foot radius when it goes off.

Executives from fund firms did take the witness stand, reports Value Walk.

William F. DíAlonzo, CEO of Friess Associates which sponsors Brandywine Funds, said that he received a letter signed by "The Bishop" in 2005.

In the letter, "The Bishop" informed D'Alonzo that he was part of "a project" that required him to attempt to drive the stock price of 3Com to $6.66 per share by October 31, 2005.

If D'Alonzo failed to do so the letter hinted that "Itís easy to kill people."

DíAlonzo testified that he thought the letter was something of a joke, though he immediately reported it to the FBI.

Pope contends that Tomkins then turned his attention to Wallace Weitz of Weitz Funds and demanded that Weitz drive the stock price of Navarre to $6.66 by May 1, 2006.

The price targets are allegedly satanically inspired.

Steve Yacktman testified that he received a letter from "The Bishop" in 2005. The Chicago Tribune reports that the letter so concerned Yacktman that he installed security cameras at his children's school and hired a private investigator.

"My family was at risk. And there was nothing I could do about it," he testified.

Tomkins asked Yacktman during his cross examination whether he had been harmed.

Yacktman answered "no" before adding that "It affected our lives."

Pope did admit that neither the letters nor the bombs contained any fingerprints and that one letter stated that "The Bishop" would not leave fingerprints or DNA.

"There is nothing the police or anybody else can do so donít contact them. There are no finger prints or DNA or nothing to match it to, so be smart and do what I am asking," read the letter according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Yet, prosecutors content that the found drafts of letters and bomb-making materials in his home and in two storage lockers. While outlining his case he also claimed that financial records show Tomkins owned stock in 3Com and Navarre.

Tomkins faces nine counts of extortion with each count carrying a maximum 20 year sentence, alone with two counts of possessing an illegal destructive device with each punishable by ten years imprisonment. He is also charged with using a destructive device in the pursuit of violent crime, a charge that carries a 30 year minimum sentence.

The United States Postal Inspection Service arrested Tomkins in Kansas City, Missouri in 2007 after American Century Investments and Janus Capital Group received packages containing pipe bombs. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the FBI arrested Tompkins.

Edited by: HFD


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