The Grand Slammer
Donna Kim waits behind the metal detector at the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale at 9 a.m. on Thursday, October 16. A stout woman with long, shiny, black hair who stands about five feet, five inches, she wears a blue, loose-fitting shirt and black slacks. She has on no jewelry, just as federal authorities had instructed her. James Davis, her soft-spoken, unemployed boyfriend, stands to her right. He's here for, as Kim puts it, "moral support." Davis has the disheveled brown hair and contemplative look of a street-corner poet. They met at a coffeehouse one year ago. Since then, he's been a positive part of Kim's new life, a life unlike her past one, a life that doesn't involve a recently indicted Norwegian businessman named Arne Soreide.
Sometimes, though, her old world returns to haunt her. That's what is happening today. Kim, a 47-year-old woman from Hawaii who moved to South Florida eight years ago, is about to surrender to federal marshals on a charge that she conspired to defraud thousands of U.S. telephone customers between July 31, 1996, and September 4, 2001.
"Let's go," instructs Darwin Crenshaw, the court officer handling her surrender. Crenshaw, a handsome 36-year-old African-American with an athletic build, has been preparing Kim for this moment since yesterday afternoon. "This is going to be the most humiliating moment of your life," he had told her. "Marshals are going to escort you into a courtroom, and they'll read out your charges for everybody to hear. You're just going to have to stand there, facing that judge, absolutely humiliated."
As they all walk past framed pictures of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, Kim's face reddens. She's holding back tears. "I'm scared," she admits, "but I'm prepared. I know what I'm doing is right. Arne ripped off thousands of people, and nobody would know if it weren't for me. He stole from people. He was living high on the hog. But now he's going to be held accountable. That's why I'm here." She pauses and looks down. "If I don't do this," she continues, "there's no case, is there?"
Florida Launch vs. Chesapeake Bayhawks
TicketsSat., Jul. 15, 7:00pm
Florida Launch vs. Charlotte Hounds
TicketsSat., Jul. 22, 7:00pm
Intl. Champions Cup pres. by Heineken: Paris Saint-Germain v Juventus
TicketsWed., Jul. 26, 8:30pm
EL CLASICO MIAMI: Real Madrid CF v. FC Barcelona
TicketsSat., Jul. 29, 7:30pm
Crenshaw opens the door to the U.S. Marshal's Office. "Wait here," he instructs Kim's boyfriend, Davis, pointing to a reception area with ten chairs. In the corner of the waiting room hangs a poster for the 1998 movie U.S. Marshals. Davis takes a seat.
Crenshaw then escorts Kim to a steel door. Once behind it, she will be searched, processed, and booked. From there, she can't turn back.
Davis watches through a glass wall as Crenshaw knocks. The door opens slowly. Kim takes a step back as if apprehensive. She looks back at her boyfriend, her face puffy and red, and blows him one last kiss to say goodbye. Then she disappears.
Her boyfriend turns away with a pensive look. Davis knows Kim faces up to five years in federal prison. "But you have to believe that the justice system works," he says. "You have to believe that they're going to go easy on Donna for cooperating."
Until mid-2000, Kim was president of Accutel Communications, a Pompano Beach long-distance company that raked in millions after deregulation swept through the U.S. telecom industry in 1992. Accutel's fortunes, both Kim and federal prosecutors allege, came from scams known as "cramming" and "slamming." Cramming is when long-distance companies charge small recurring fees to telephone customers without receiving permission or rendering service; slamming is when those firms switch a consumer's provider without consent.
In the deregulated telecommunications industry, Accutel was just one of dozens of predators that allegedly stole from U.S. telephone customers and tried to cover up their crimes. Yet Accutel has national significance. Previous federal inquiries into telecom scandals focused on giants like WorldCom and its book-cooking chief financial officer, Scott Sullivan, a part-time Boca Raton resident who allegedly committed $3.6 billion in fraud. Now, as the Accutel case illustrates, federal prosecutors are casting a wider swath. They want to jail the executives of firms that operated a level below WorldCom on the telecom totem pole. Like Sullivan, Accutel's chief executive faces hard time for his misdeeds.
That is, in many ways, thanks to Kim. When she testified before a federal grand jury on September 11, she became the government's key witness against former Accutel CEO Soreide, a 57-year-old Boca Raton resident. That testimony helped to secure a 66-count indictment against Soreide, who has a history of dubious business practices. If convicted on all charges, he could spend the rest of his life behind bars. Soreide declined to comment when reached by telephone at the Broward Sheriff's Office Main Jail on October 23. After the businessman made bond, neither he nor his wife responded to repeated calls from New Times.
When Soreide placed Accutel into Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in December 2000, he changed Kim's life for the worse. Now she's getting even. "I was Arne's patsy," Kim says.
Arne Soreide may go down. And so may his patsy.
Donna Kim's mother is Filipino, her father Japanese. Burdened by the collision of cultures, she has always felt inadequately American. She talks about coming forward to federal authorities as if it were an act of patriotism, as if it were the most American thing she could have done. Her Asian sensibilities, she admits, tug at her ceaselessly: There's a wish to be obedient, a need to respect her elders, a search for a mentor.
Kim's father, Dyoniscio, and grandfather, Escolastico, immigrated to Hawaii from Japan in 1941 to toil in the cotton fields. At the time, crop owners housed workers according to nationality. Because Japanese housing was full at the plantation where the pair worked, the crop owners told them to stay with the Filipinos.
In the Filipino camp, Dyoniscio met his bride, Theodoro. Her family too had moved from their native land to work in the cotton fields. Dyoniscio and Theodoro, who always communicated in English, married and lived in Honolulu. Donna was born on July 14, 1957, the youngest of three children. Her father, who inexplicably chose to serve in the U.S. Army after seeing his people forced into post-Pearl Harbor internment camps, instilled in his two boys and Donna a love of his adopted land. "My father is first and foremost an American, and he's very proud of that," Donna says. "My father always told me, 'If anybody asks you what your nationality is, Donna, you are an American. You might have a different heritage that is Filipino and Japanese. But first and foremost, you are an American.'"
Following high school, Kim fell in love with Denandio S. Parengit, a Hawaiian native whom she married in 1973. They had two children, Vanessa and Vince, both of whom now live in South Florida but declined to be quoted for this article. While a young mother, Kim found time to attend the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she studied computer science and graduated in 1977 with a 3.98 GPA. Then her marriage ended. On November 17, 1977, the couple's fourth anniversary, Kim says, she returned home early one afternoon to find her husband naked in bed with another woman. "He said nothing was going on," Kim remembers. 'What do you think I am,' I told him, 'stupid?'"
Kim remarried in 1980 to James Kim, a civilian employee of Pearl Harbor who worked as a draftsman. He was abusive, Kim claims, so she ended the marriage. Kim nevertheless chose to retain her ex-husband's last name.
In 1986, Kim decided to take Vanessa and Vince and stake out a new life in Southern California, where she landed a job at a small but growing company called TelWest Communications. The firm ventured into new business territory in 1993 after the federal government deregulated the U.S. telecom industry. It was one of many small start-ups that purchased blocks of long-distance minutes wholesale from MCI and then resold them to consumers.
Kim's tenure at TelWest was cut short in 1996. Her fiancé, Pat Sottile, worked as a customer service representative for U.S. Airways. In June 1995, the airline transferred Sottile to West Palm Beach. Kim and her two children moved with him.
While still new to South Florida, Kim sent her résumé to Telemarketing USA in Delray Beach. There, she interviewed with Arne Soreide, a six-foot-six Norwegian with light-brown hair and green eyes. He was charming and smart, Kim remembers thinking, and the two seemed to connect almost instantly.
Soreide hired Kim as floor manager and human resources director for Telemarketing USA, which solicited customers for long-distance providers. But that business, Soreide told Kim, was only temporary. He wanted to start his own long-distance company. "Arne brought me in because of my background, because I had a long-distance background," Kim would explain in a 2001 deposition.
In the spring of 1996, Soreide announced that the company would change its name to Nortel and resell long-distance minutes. "I felt like my dreams had been realized," Kim explains. "Arne was my mentor, and we were going to build a new company."
Arne Soreide studied hotel and restaurant management in Norway. The education helped him enter U.S. business life in the 1980s, when he opened a restaurant in Boston called Arne's. He was hardly sentimental about the eatery. When the Boston Globe asked in 1989 if he'd ever consider selling the place, Soreide quipped, "Everything is for sale for the right price." He told the Globe he'd be interested in returning to his first love: hotels.
Instead, he moved to Boca Raton with his wife, Lynn, a woman from Octono, Wisconsin, who was seven years his junior, and his two sons, Leif and Lars. Soreide became a mortgage broker at a time when Florida real estate was booming. That's when, according to public records, his questionable business dealings appear to have started.
On September 13, 1994, Arne and Lynn Soreide borrowed $1 million from Capital Bank to fund their new company, Royal Palm Mortgage. Although they apparently repaid most of the money quickly, the couple had defaulted on the loan by June 1995, leaving a balance of $95,691. Capital Bank sued and won a judgment in court.
On October 4, 1996, Florida sued Telemarketing USA, Royal Palm Mortgage, and Arne Soreide, seeking $23,552.23 in unpaid unemployment taxes. The court ruled in the state's favor, requiring Soreide to pay back the money and prohibiting him from employing anyone until the debt was satisfied.
But those were small-time tricks compared to the one the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office alleged that Soreide tried to pull on a 77-year-old Boca Raton retiree named Mary C. Kravontka.
In April 1994, Soreide met with Kravontka to refinance her Boca Raton condominium, according to state records. While reviewing her personal finances, the broker noticed the retiree had a significant amount of money in a securities account. He told her he could generate 10 to 12 percent profit on the money if she'd invest in his mortgages. After she handed over a check for $156,366, Soreide provided a letter on blank paper promising 10 percent interest. But Soreide's checks to the elderly woman began to bounce, according to state records, and Kravontka reported the problem to state authorities.
Soon, investigator Andrea Appleman discovered that Soreide had deposited the money into his company's operating account. "No assignments of mortgages to Mrs. Kravontka from Arne Soreide and/or Royal Palm Mortgage Corp. could be found in courthouse records to support Arne Soreide's story that he was investing her money in mortgages," Appleman told a state court.
Around the same time, Appleman was investigating another complaint related to Soreide. In summer 1995, he represented Betty E. Biro, who had mortgages with Royal Palm on properties that were on the market, according to documents from the state Department of Banking and Finance. In June of that year, a buyer secured a mortgage to purchase Biro's properties, and the mortgage company, Nations Credit, contacted Soreide to determine the payoff amount.
Nations Credit sent Soreide a check for $63,326.07. But instead of handing the money over to Biro, Soreide admitted that he deposited the money into his companies' bank accounts. He used it to purchase a $3,400 airplane ticket and then withdraw $6,000 in cash, according to state records. What's more, in an attempt to hide what he'd done, Soreide told Nations Credit to deal directly with Biro and then sent the company a check for the full amount. It bounced.
In a July 21, 1995, letter to state investigators, Soreide explained that the bounced check was a mistake. His company, he said, was embroiled in a temporary cash-flow problem. "I immediately called Nations Credit and told them not to deposit the check...," he wrote. "I told them I could not [take care of the problem] till August 15, 1995. They then told me that the 'Authorities would take care of it.'"
And take care of it the authorities did. On July 28, 1995, the state revoked Soreide's mortgage license and prohibited him from working in the mortgage industry for ten years. Additionally, the state Office of the Comptroller fined Soreide $2,500.
Two years later, the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office indicted Soreide in the Kravontka case. On July 10, 1997, the state charged Soreide with organizing a scheme to defraud, engaging in grand theft, and exploiting the elderly, all felonies. Soreide faced prison time if convicted. But he wasn't. On November 6, 1997, the state dropped the charges after Soreide paid $204,653 in restitution. Prosecutors would have had trouble convicting Soreide "because Ms. Kravontka's only desire was to have her money completely returned to her so that she could live out the rest of her years comfortably," according to a state attorney's memorandum obtained by New Times.
Donna Kim admits she became aware of Soreide's questionable past after having worked for him only a short time. "He'd say it was a mistake," she explains, "that it wasn't true, and I'd believe him."
In spring 1996, Nortel billed its first customers. Around the same time, according to Donna Kim, Soreide received a cease-and-desist order from another Nortel, the $10.5 billion multinational technology giant. Soreide had no choice but to find another name.
He, in turn, created Accutel to absorb Nortel. He promoted Kim to company president and inked a contract with telecom company Cable & Wireless to buy long-distance minutes. Accutel, like other resellers, purchased bulk time at five cents per minute and charged customers ten cents. Business boomed. By May 31, 1998, according to the federal indictment against Soreide, Accutel had purchased $2.1 million worth of long distance and billed its customers $4.2 million for the time.
But Accutel wasn't playing straight, according to Kim's September 11 grand jury testimony. All the numbers that Soreide billed through local phone companies belonged to people who never requested service from Accutel. When he operated Telemarketing USA, Soreide had contracts to sell long-distance services for AT&T, Qwest, and US Long Distance. He took many of the phone numbers from those contracts and, without the customers' knowledge, transferred them to Accutel for long distance.
Local phone companies never verified that their customers had requested service from Accutel. "They don't question the validity," Kim told the grand jury. In fact, Accutel had only two legitimate customers: Kim's parents in Hawaii and one of her girlfriends in California.
Soreide hired as many as 18 phone staffers to field complaints. Although most customers never noticed they had been slammed, a small percentage called to complain. Those people represented a significant threat to Accutel. If they made enough noise, the company might be prohibited from doing business in some states. "On the slamming complaints, it was the standard modus operandi that we needed to make sure that the customer was not unhappy so they would not file a complaint with the public utilities," Kim explained to the grand jury. To mollify irate customers, Accutel phone staffers would explain that it was a mistake and that the firm would pay the $5 fee to switch the customer to another long-distance provider.
That worked to appease most, Kim says, but some would still complain to state regulators and consumer groups. When that happened, Kim would file a fake transcript that seemed to authorize the service switch. "It would be like a script, and you would fill in the blanks based on the information," Kim explains. In most cases, that seemed to satisfy authorities.
But not all the complaints were about slamming. Soreide had also started to engage in cramming, according to the federal indictment. He claimed that thousands of customers had authorized a monthly recurring fee of $4.95. But not one customer had authorized such a charge. What's more, Accutel wasn't providing any kind of service in exchange for the fee. From June 1997 to April 1999, according to the federal indictment, Soreide crammed consumers to the tune of about $22.5 million.
By the late '90s, Accutel was hardly the only outlaw company allegedly pillaging millions in the wild west of deregulated long distance, according to William Von Hefner, editor of TheDigest.com, a telecommunications industry news website. "Companies like Accutel are all over the place," Von Hefner explains. "Most of them you've never heard of. Long distance is a perfect place for fraud to occur. Companies can charge for services that don't really exist, steal something without the person ever noticing it. It's almost a perfect crime."
Among the better-known crammers and slammers was a California outfit called Cherry Communications. In 1994, the Federal Communications Commission launched a probe of the company after receiving numerous complaints about slamming. Cherry signed a federal consent decree in April of that year that, while not requiring the company to admit guilt, forced Cherry to pay a $500,000 fine. That was chump change compared to the purported profits. Since the company was private, exact revenue and profit figures were unavailable. However, one indicator of Cherry's financial wherewithal is the debt it owed WorldCom: $165 million. Most long-distance resellers charged customers ten cents per minute for carrier time they bought at five cents, meaning that Cherry could have sold the WorldCom time for $330 million. After California revoked Cherry's license following continued complaints of slamming, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 1997.
In an example of how slammers and crammers played secondary roles in recent Wall Street scandals, the $165 million Cherry arrear to WorldCom was among the telecom giant's bad debts. WorldCom CFO Scott Sullivan allegedly hid these debts to cook the books when WorldCom was vying to take over MCI, according to a lawsuit filed in California by high-tech entrepreneur Roger Abbott.
By 1998, slamming became a significant consumer issue. According to Senate testimony by Susan Grant, vice president of public policy for the National Consumer League, in February of that year, it was the league's fifth most frequently reported problem. The number of complaints was increasing steadily. "In the first six months of 1997, we received 221 reports," she explained. "By the end of December, the total was 810."
Yet many long-distance resellers weren't satisfied with profits from slamming and cramming. Some stiffed the carrier that provided service. That's what Accutel allegedly did. According to the indictment, the company cheated four major carriers, including WorldCom, out of about $4.5 million total between April 1997 and September 1999.
Small long-distance companies like Accutel often cut corners, explains Von Hefner. "They're run by people who are either convicted felons or lawyers," he says. "They have criminal minds. Are criminals smart? Yeah. The average person who's involved in schemes like these has to be smart to keep up. But you can't equate intelligence with ethics."
Telecom titans such as WorldCom weren't Arne Soreide's only victims. He was apparently good at avoiding bill collectors. Soreide would shell out cash when necessary, Donna Kim alleges, but he'd first try to find a way out of paying. When Cable & Wireless threatened to cut off Accutel's service for lack of payment, for instance, Soreide simply jumped to WorldCom, according to the federal indictment. When WorldCom threatened, Soreide moved over to Sprint. It was a game in which Soreide was champion.
Soreide played that game with Accutel's offices at 1060 S. Federal Hwy. in Delray Beach. Until October 1998, he rented the space for Accutel for $5,775 per month under a three-year lease that had started in April 1997.
On a Friday afternoon in October 1998, building owner Dennis Udwin attended a meeting at the office building and noticed a moving truck in the parking lot, according to his deposition in a pending lawsuit over the matter. Udwin was shocked. "They hadn't notified us or anything," he explained.
Then the landlord walked into Accutel's office and met with Soreide. "What are you doing?" he said he asked. "What's going on here?"
"I have another company moving in here," Udwin recalled Soreide telling him. "I'm moving somewhere else."
But Udwin suspected trouble. "I sincerely hope that you plan on honoring your lease," he told Soreide.
Yet Soreide apparently had no such plans. He was moving the company to his own place. Soreide had created three separate corporations -- 100 Sample Realty, 150 Sample Realty, and Oconto Real Estate Holdings -- that he was using to divert Accutel money to and then buy property in Broward and Palm Beach counties, according to the federal indictment. One of those properties was an office building at 100 E. Sample Rd. in Pompano Beach, the next and final home of the Norwegian's telecom headquarters.
From October 1998 to August 1999, according to the indictment, Soreide routed significant amounts of money out of Accutel and into his real estate companies. He also cut checks to his wife for thousands of dollars. During this period, the Soreides purchased a $2.5 million home in Boca Raton's exclusive Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club, allegedly using Accutel assets.
Donna Kim helped with the books at the time, and she remembers one incident that illustrated Soreide's extravagance. "What do I do with this thing called DCOTA?" she asked Soreide, referring to a $14,000 receipt from the Design Center of the Americas in Dania Beach. "What did you buy from them?"
"Oh, Lynn and I were there because we're still working on the house," Kim remembers Soreide answering.
"Spare me the details. What did you buy?"
"Fourteen thousand friggin' dollars for a what?" Kim asked.
Accutel's money wasn't going to pay just for overpriced furnishings, federal prosecutors allege. Soreide started to fund another company. In the fall of 1998, a group of investors and maritime businessmen led by fellow Norwegian Willie Hansen had concocted a business plan to start a cruise-ferry service from Tampa to the Yucatan Peninsula. They even had a boat lined up: the Scotia Prince, which ran from Portland, Maine, to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, in the summer. The company was to be called American Viking Lines.
To set the company sailing, the entrepreneurs needed an investor. While in New York, Hansen happened to run into a captain he knew from Norwegian Cruise Line. "They chit-chatted, and he explained what he wanted to do," recalls Ron Ardis, who was hired to be the new company's marketing director. "The captain said he'd done a lot of research on this himself, and he had a cousin who might be interested."
That cousin was Arne Soreide.
American Viking Line's maiden voyage was on November 13, 1998. "The response in the marketplace was tremendous," Ardis remembers. According to the federal indictment, Soreide sent a total of $605,105 in Accutel funds to American Viking Lines. Then, without notice, Soreide's weekly payments stopped coming. By December, the second lease fee on the Scotia Prince was due, and American Viking didn't have the money. "He was indicating [the money] was coming through some real estate holding he was selling," Ardis recalls. "When that didn't happen, the ship came back, and basically [its owners] had given [Soreide and Hansen] an ultimatum: If the charter payment wasn't wired then, they'd cease operation and sail the ship back to Portland."
The wire didn't come. After 16 round-trip voyages, American Viking went bust. Scotia Prince sailed back to Maine on January 5, 1999. "The ironic thing was that during the six months we started booking, the ship was full," Ardis says. "If we could have lasted another month, we would have had enough revenue to be self-sufficient."
Seeing Accutel money flowing to other companies, Donna Kim began to grow skeptical of Soreide. In early 2000, she confronted her employer. If Accutel was a legitimate long-distance company, she asked, why was it paying money to a cruise line and real estate companies?
"He told me it was none of my fucking business," Kim told the grand jury. "My job was to just do what I was told to do and not ask questions. 'Loose lips sink ships.' I was told that on a regular basis."
Around the same time, Kim became a victim of the scam: Accutel slammed and crammed her home phone. "I still can't figure that one out," she admitted.
Kim nevertheless continued to do what she was told. Although she had the lofty title of Accutel president, her job was primarily to be an assistant to Soreide. Her salary of $45,000, a paltry amount for an executive of a multimillion-dollar telecom, was evidence that her position was something of a ruse. Even though Soreide was in fact Accutel's CEO, he did not list himself as a company officer on state records. "The whole purpose behind me being there was [Soreide] was never, ever going to be called to testify because he was never actually an officer of any sort," Kim told the grand jury. "His wife was, Lynn Soreide. My job was that Lynn never, ever, ever had to go to any of these hearings or get involved or hear about or read or anything. My job depended on that."
Slamming and cramming complaints against Accutel continued. State regulators, becoming aware of the nationwide scam, clamped down on the problem. The Florida Public Service Commission in July 1999 threatened Accutel with a record $1.7 million fine unless the company could prove false all 171 complaints the commission had received. On March 29, 2000, the Kentucky Public Service Commission ordered Accutel to respond to similar complaints.
Soreide apparently realized he couldn't operate Accutel under constant threat of fines and state hearings. On December 20, 2000, Accutel attorney Mario D. German placed the company in Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, listing $3.2 million in debt and $881 in assets.
WorldCom attorney Allan S. Reiss, whose client was owed $1.5 million, tried to dispute the bankruptcy, alleging that "the Soreides stripped Accutel of substantially all of its assets to the detriment and harm of its creditors," according to court records.
Kim corroborates WorldCom's claim. Before filing for bankruptcy, Soreide diverted Accutel revenue to his wife and the real estate companies, she alleged in court. The bankruptcy filing, Kim told the grand jury, "needed to show there was no money going in. So then everything was then funneled through 100 Sample Realty and 150 Sample Realty." Still, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Raymond B. Ray discharged Accutel's debt on October 29, 2001.
As a result, Soreide walked away from $3.2 million in arrears, all the while reaping the benefits of real-estate holdings allegedly purchased with Accutel money.
He appeared to have pulled off the perfect scam. It seems, though, he didn't anticipate that Kim would blow the whistle. In late 2000, months after having left Accutel, she received a visit from an FBI agent who was investigating Soreide and Accutel. Kim told her story, and the agent in turn set up an appointment with federal prosecutor Neil Karadbil. Then she testified before the grand jury. "It was awesome," she says of testifying. "It was like my body kicked into gear. I was nervous at first, but I realized everyone was really pleasant. They wanted to listen. It was a wonderful experience I don't think I'll ever forget."
Prosecutors indicted Soreide on October 2, 2003. He surrendered to authorities eight days later and bonded out on October 22. His trial is set for December 15.
Donna Kim sits at an outside table at Cheeburger Cheeburger in Delray Beach on October 23. She's noticeably nervous.
Kim claims Soreide ruined her credit and her life. After he'd allegedly ripped off Cable & Wireless, WorldCom, Sprint, and Frontier, she claims, he hammered out Accutel's final long-distance carrier contract with Global Crossing. He asked Kim to sign it. "Donna, don't read the contract," Kim contends Soreide told her. "It takes you too long, and you ask 15 questions." At the time, Kim believed she was signing as president of the company. Yet she was in fact putting her name on a personal guarantee to Global Crossing. Soreide wound up stiffing the telecom giant for $925,201. Kim, who became responsible for the debt, had to declare bankruptcy in February 2001, and now can't even open a checking account. "He ruined me," she says.
Kim's is something of an absurd story. She maintains she was gullible, that Soreide had charmed her to such a degree that she believed everything he said. But how could she not have suspected the fraud earlier? In a deposition, an attorney grilled Kim about what appears to be her willful ignorance. "I'm not ignorant," she responded. "I'm just a little naive in certain cases."
A shiny, black, four-door BMW drives slowly by Cheeburger Cheeburger. "Oh, shit," Kim says, turning her face away. Then she realizes her alarm was unnecessary. "Every time I see a car like that," she says, "I think it's Arne. I'm scared. I know that he won't personally contact me. He's too cunning and too smart. But he does have a lot of connections to people that know how to find me."
She looks down and stuffs an onion ring into her mouth. "If I don't testify, then there's really no case, is there?" she continues. "So therefore, if he can get me out of the way, he'd be much happier. He used to always tell me, 'Loose lips sink ships. There's always hell to pay when someone talks too much, Donna.' I just want my life back."
Walking through downtown Delray Beach, Kim points to the stores she likes: the antiques shop on the left, the photography gallery on the right. She doesn't know how many days she has left to walk down this street. She's hoping for probation, but no one could give her a guarantee.
"I'm fearful of my sentencing," she admits. "But if I have to do any time in federal prison, I'm going to request a cell right next to Martha Stewart."
Get the Things to Do Newsletter
Find out about upcoming events and special offers happening in South Florida.