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Ex-body armor chief's fraud case now in NY jury's hands

By Basil Katz

CENTRAL ISLIP, New York (Reuters) - A $100,000 gem-encrusted belt buckle, luxury cars and private jet trips to glitzy resorts were among the bounty funded with millions taken from a body armor company by its former CEO, U.S. prosecutors charged at the end of a six-month trial on Thursday.

David Brooks -- the former chief executive of the former DHB Industries Inc -- was charged with securities fraud, insider trading, tax evasion and other criminal offenses in a 21-count indictment filed in 2007. He has denied the charges.

DHB changed its name to Point Blank Solutions and moved its headquarters to Pompano Beach, Florida after Brooks' July 2006 departure. Point Blank filed for bankruptcy in April, partly due to the legal costs associated with Brooks. The company supplies the U.S. military's with more than 80 percent of its soft body armor, according to court documents.

Brooks and Sandra Hatfield, another former top DHB official facing the same federal jury, are accused of making $190 million through the scheme. They manipulated the company's financial records to increase earnings and profit margins, thereby inflating stock prices, prosecutors said.

"David Brooks was driven by greed," Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Caffarone told jurors in closing arguments on Thursday. Jury deliberations were due to begin on Monday.

Hatfield has denied the government's claim that she intentionally inflated inventory for the purpose of boosting the company's stock.

Brooks, 55, stands accused of charging over $6 million in personal expenses to the company. From the shimmering American flag belt buckle to plastic surgery for his wife, veterinary pills for his 100 racing horses, luxury cars and use of the company jet to ferry his children to and from college or to parties, Brooks was spending DHB money, they said.

Defense attorney Kenneth Ravenell, however, argued Brooks was allowed to make the purchases thanks to agreements with the company and that many of the expenses the government questioned were legitimate and admissible business expenditures.

Ravenell also said Brooks was owed funds by the company and some of his spending went toward the company's debt to him.

(Reporting by Basil Katz; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Jackie Frank)