— Hollywood is promising a forthcoming movie about a famous scam artist who currently lives in San Diego, and now they can add a new twist to the story. Barry Minkow, who did a seven-year stretch in prison for the infamous ZZZZ Best carpet-cleaning scandal back in the 1980s, is now pastor of the Community Bible Church in Scripps Ranch. Two weeks ago Richard Elliott, a 31-year-old associate pastor at the church, was arrested and charged with molesting a boy under 14 three times between May and July of this year. After the charges against him came to light, it was discovered that Elliott had been convicted in 1991 on murder-for-hire related charges in Denver. The story of church-head Minkow has become required reading in accounting classes on fraud. ZZZZ Best was started by then 16-year-old Minkow in his parents' Los Angeles garage. By 1986, when he was 21, Minkow went public and was boasting that he grossed $50 million a year cleaning carpets and drapes and received a commendation from L.A. mayor Tom Bradley for his keen business sense and appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show. It took a diligent newspaper reporter to discover that $46 million of ZZZZ Best's revenue was phony and based on false insurance claims that were ignored by the company auditors. Minkow was convicted on fraud and money-laundering charges and ended up in Lompoc federal prison camp, where he completed bachelor's and master's degrees and studied the gospel. Raised Jewish, he was "born again" and paroled as a Christian minister, still owing his victims $26 million in court-ordered restitution.

Toxic boxes

A resident of Bonita has been found guilty of illegally stashing hundreds of gallons of deadly toxic waste in more than 100 cardboard boxes in a Palm Desert warehouse, reports the Riverside Press-Enterprise. After deliberating only two and a half hours, a Riverside County Superior Court jury last week convicted Marvin Hutchinson of all 45 counts in the hazardous-waste disposal case against him. The waste, discovered in July 1998, reportedly contained cyanide, carcinogens, and highly explosive acids. "If that stuff would have blown up, people in the immediate area would certainly have died," deputy district attorney Guy Pittman told the paper. "Some of it was what was used in gas chambers. It was amazingly dangerous." James Pokorny, Hutchinson's San Diego based attorney, was quoted as saying that Hutchinson had brought the chemicals to the storage warehouse but no longer owned them when they were discovered. According to the newspaper's account, the chemicals were left over from a Mexican chemical company that Hutchinson, reported to be a pharmaceutical manufacturer and distributor, was once involved in. The waste had been stored in Chula Vista from 1989 until 1993, when officials of the Environmental Protection Agency ordered that they be moved, according to the Press-Enterprise. The paper's account added that Hutchinson and an associate were indicted in April 1999 by a federal grand jury in San Diego in connection with hazardous-waste storage in Chula Vista.

Say it isn't rape

An expos� two weeks ago in the Sacramento Bee alleging inadequate reporting of rape and other sexual-violence statistics on University of California campuses reports that UCSD officials have been classifying sexual assaults under the broad heading of "physical abuse." According to the Bee, there is "a largely invisible epidemic of violence against women" on UC campuses. In response, UC president Richard Atkinson has ordered formation of an in-house task force to investigate. "We think we're doing a good job, and we think we are complying with the law," a UC spokesman told the paper. "We're going to form this internal task force to see if we're doing as good a job as we think we are." ... SDG&E's plan to run high-voltage power lines through Temecula in Riverside County is meeting with heavy resistance from residents there, reports the Riverside Press-Enterprise. Designed to meet growing demand for power in San Diego, the line is scheduled for construction in mid-2002 ... Darr Bothwell, a noted Bay Area artist who reportedly went to San Diego High School and was once briefly married to the late San Diego sculptor Donal Hord, has died in Fort Bragg at 98.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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