Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Harkness Returns, Is Jailed On Fraud Charges

Angela Harkness is in jail today.

You may remember Ms. Harkness as the former co-owner of the Angela’s Motorsports NASCAR Busch Series team. She and her partner, Wells Fargo bank branch Vice President Gary Jones, were convicted of embezzling $1.3 million to fund the team between 2000 and 2003. Jones pled guilty to fraud, theft and embezzlement charges, and is currently serving a fairly lengthy sentence.

The Iranian-born Harkness has been on the lam since fleeing the United States in April of 2004, just before she could be sentenced for her conviction on fraud charges. The former strip club dancer was arrested in Dubai in May of 2005, but could not be brought back to serve her sentence because the United States does not have an extradition treaty with the United Arab Emirates. U.S. Marshals said Harkness contacted them recently, saying she wanted to return and serve her time. She was arrested Sunday at JFK International Airport in New York City, just as she stepped off a flight from the UAE.

Driver Mike McLaughlin, crewchief Harold Holly and team manager Clyde McLeod were left holding the bag when Harkness and Jones disappeared just prior to the 2003 season opener at Daytona International Speedway, leaving behind an estimated half million dollars in unpaid bills and bounced checks. Rick Barton, President and CEO of the team’s sponsor, WiredFlyer, claimed that Jones charged computers, airline tickets and other items to Barton’s personal credit card, and Robert Yates Racing was forced to repossess equipment sold to the team when payment was not made. Eight cars, a transporter and several other pieces of equipment were liquidated in a sale to current Busch Series team owner Jay Robinson.

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