Posted by Moher Beer on June 17, 2009 at 07:59:34:
Ponzi scam suspect disappears: cops
ACCUSED IN $11 MIL. RIPOFF | North's Web radio show signs off
June 17, 2009
BY LEWIS LAZARE Media & Marketing Columnist
Local sports talker Mike North's brainchild Chicago SportsWebio.com signed off for the last time at 5 p.m. Tuesday, even as Downers Grove police said its principal backer and North's former business partner, David Hernandez, had gone missing.
Hernandez's disappearance came after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil lawsuit Monday alleging that Hernandez had bilked about 100 investors out of $11 million to fund NextStep Financial Services in a Ponzi scheme.
A judge froze the assets of other Hernandez companies, including NextStep Medical Staffing, which was the lead sponsor of "Monsters in the Morning," the morning cable TV sports talk fest that North launched amid much ballyhoo on Comcast SportsNet last January. The show was simulcast on Webio.com.
A Comcast spokesman said there are no plans to pull "Monsters" from the cable sports station's program lineup, and all signs on the show's set referencing NextStep Medical Staffing were gone as of Monday. North said he hoped to have another lead sponsor for the TV show in place by mid-July, but he wouldn't name any potential sponsors.
Hernandez was thought to have been last seen Monday at Chicago Sports Webio offices to meet with the staff, according to sources. Hernandez apparently left the offices abruptly and didn't return.
Chicago Sports Webio ceased operating, with a staff that included Program Director Jesse Rogers; morning show co-hosts Matt Weber and Fred Huebner; midday show hosts Jonathon Hood and Tim Doyle, and afternoon hosts Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini and Chet Coppock.
"I feel like I've been clobbered," Coppock said. ". . . Hernandez struck me as genuine, but I suppose in hindsight you have to assume a certain degree of naivete on my part."
North said he met Hernandez after he had ended his stint as a host at sports/talk WSCR-AM (670). He said Hernandez approached him, said he had been a fan of North and his WSCR program and suggested they do something together.
North and his wife Googled Hernandez on the Web and found nothing that raised concerns, so deals were done.
North admits he was impressed by Hernandez's big-spending ways in the early going, saying: "Everything was the finest -- the finest hotels, meals, everything." But he said his views began to change several weeks ago, when he heard Chicago Sports Webio staffers' paychecks were bouncing.
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