Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Scripps heir fleeced mum and uncle

Scripps media fortune heir Michael Scripps was convicted of stealing millions of dollars from his mother and a disabled uncle

An heir to the Scripps media fortune has been convicted of stealing 3.6 million dollars (£2.3 million) from his mother and a disabled uncle.

Michael Scripps, 36, who lives in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, spent the money on cars, jewellery and women, including a stripper and porn actress, the two-week trial in Philadelphia heard. He faces more than seven years in prison.

His mother Melissa Scripps, 62, told the court she received 11 million dollars from the 1980s-era sale of some family holdings, while her brother David received more, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Her son had a six-figure trust fund, along with a 3,900-dollar monthly stipend she provided, she said. But he persuaded her to steer money to his friend, a financial adviser in the Philadelphia suburbs, then proceeded to raid the accounts, she told jurors. "I don't want anyone else to go through what we've been through as a family," Ms Scripps said.

The EW Scripps family owns newspapers and television stations, and it is the name behind Scripps College and the Scripps Oceanography Institution.

Melissa Scripps acknowledged that she has gone through much of the fortune. She spent more than one million dollars on family cruises, flew her dogs to her second home on St Maarten, and bought two dresses belonging to Diana, Princess of Wales, and a Napoleonic tiara. She said she smokes marijuana daily and has been married four times. "Michael thought his mom was spending too much money, she was spending his inheritance," assistant US attorney Linwood Wright said in closing arguments.

US District Judge Legrome Davis reminded jurors that they had to decide if a crime occurred, not if people had "squandered, in a profound way, their lives".

The 1980s sale was valued at more than 700 million dollars. The defence maintained that Melissa Scripps received more than 100 million.

Michael Scripps did not give evidence, but his lawyer argued that he had his mother's permission to use whatever funds he needed.

After the verdict, the judge denied a defence bid to have Scripps remain free on bail until his July 15 sentencing, saying: "I have absolutely no comfort with how your client behaved."

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