Mystery missive in fraud scheme

It appears that Lou Pearlman faxed the bankruptcy court to get a public defender.

By Helen Huntley, Times personal finance editor
Published May 23, 2007

More than four months after leaving the country and a horde of angry creditors and investors behind, music producer Lou Pearlman went public Tuesday with a message to the bankruptcy court. Or at least that's the way it looks.

A filing purporting to be from Pearlman was faxed to the Orlando bankruptcy court early Tuesday morning with no return address and the sending telephone number obscured. If it's actually from him, it's the first time Pearlman has communicated with the court since the March 1 bankruptcy filing.

His message: he wants a public defender because he can't find a lawyer to represent him. He also claims any of his documents in the possession of his former lawyers are protected by attorney-client privilege and shouldn't be turned over to the trustee appointed to the case. He wants to claim his right not to incriminate himself.

"I attempted to obtain counsel to represent me in this matter and have not been able to secure counsel due to the conflicts of interest that exist for the members of the bar that have been contacted on my behalf, " Pearlman's filing said. He asks for a public defender "to protect my constitutional rights before this court."

Pearlman's Orlando entertainment empire collapsed this year after the state accused him of running one of the largest investment frauds in Florida history. He owes investors and lenders more than $400-million and a group of banks forced him into involuntary bankruptcy.

Pearlman's missive to the court was prompted by a motion by trustee Soneet Kapila to force former Pearlman lawyer Rene Chamberlain to turn over her files.

Bankruptcy Judge Arthur Briskman is reviewing the motion and Pearlman's objection.

There is no right to a public defender in bankruptcy court as there is in criminal cases.

However, Pearlman's filing says "the potential is very high that any documents or property obtained would be used against me in criminal proceedings in state or federal courts."

Chamberlain could not be reached for comment. She did not respond to two letters that Kapila's lawyers sent last month demanding turnover of the documents.

Pearlman is best known as a promoter of boy bands, including *NSync and the Backstreet Boys.

Helen Huntley can be reached at hhuntley@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8230.