Scripps heir guilty in $4.45m swindle of mum, uncle

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - An heir to the Scripps media fortune was convicted of stealing US$3.6 million (S$4.45) from his mother and a disabled uncle.

Michael Scripps, 36, who lives in a Detroit suburb, spent the money on cars, jewelry and women, including a stripper and porn actress, according to testimony at the two-week trial in Philadelphia that ended on Friday. He faces more than seven years in prison at sentencing.

His mother, Melissa Scripps, told jurors that she received US$11 million from the 1980s-era sale of some family holdings, while her brother, David, received more, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Her son had a six-figure trust fund, along with a US$3,900 monthly stipend she provided, she said. Yet he persuaded her to steer money to his friend, a financial adviser in the Philadelphia suburbs, then proceeded to raid the accounts, she said.

"I don't want anyone else to go through what we've been through as a family," Ms Melissa Scripps testified.

The E.W. Scripps family owns newspapers and television stations, and it is the name behind Scripps College and the Scripps Oceanography Institution.

Ms Scripps, 62, acknowledged that she has gone through much of the fortune. She spent more than US$1 million on family cruises, flew her dogs to her second home on St. Maarten, and purchased two of Princess Diana's dresses and a Napoleonic tiara.

She said she smokes marijuana daily and has been married four times.

"Michael thought his mom was spending too much money, she was spending his inheritance," Assistant U.S. Attorney Linwood C. Wright said last Wednesday in closing arguments.

US District Judge Legrome D. Davis reminded jurors that they had to decide if a crime occurred, not if people had "squandered, in a profound way, their lives."

The 1980s sale was valued at more than US$700 million. The defence maintained that Melissa Scripps received more than US$100 million.

Michael Scripps did not testify, but his lawyer argued that he had his mother's permission to use whatever funds he needed.

After the verdict, the judge denied a defence bid to have Scripps remain free on bail until his July 15 sentencing.

"I have absolutely no comfort with how your client behaved," Judge Davis said.

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