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S.L. MAN TO STAND TRIAL OVER SELLING OF TRAVEL PACKAGES TO BUY JEANS

A Salt Lake man charged with selling bogus vacation packages to raise money to buy blue jeans was ordered Tuesday to stand trial on 53 counts of fraud and theft.

Third Circuit Judge Paul Grant said he believed Gene Parrish, 35, was responsible for conducting a "scheme of significant risk" and ordered him bound over to district court.But Grant also advised prosecutors to investigate KTKK (K-Talk) radio and Parrish's business partner, Marc Didier.

Grant said he thought Didier appeared to be "just as culpable" as Parrish. He said he personally believed that KTKK, too, was culpable if its management had knowledge that the money from the vacation packages the station heavily advertised was being diverted to purchase Levi's.

Only Parrish has been charged with any crime - 52 counts of theft and one count of communications fraud.

Assistant Attorney General Sheila Page said her office was "continuing to look into this matter," but declined to speculate about other charges. She did say, however, that Didier was not granted any kind of prosecutorial immunity in exchange for his testimony last week against Parrish.

"This court is convinced the idea of selling travel packages with a time delay in delivery of the travel was to obtain funds to purchase Levi jeans . . . and then to smuggle them into Europe," the judge said.

Parrish is accused of selling $600 travel packages that were supposed to include round-trip airfares for two to Hawaii, Florida, Mexico or the Caribbean and luxury accommodations for six days and five nights. More than 200 people signed up for $173,000 worth of travel packages or more expensive club memberships.

Although some people received partial refunds, few people received any trips, Page said.

KTKK advertised the packages for Premier International Inc. and received a $200 commission for each package sold. But witnesses said the money was used to purchase blue jeans in the United States and then sell them for a profit in France and Belgium. The profits were supposed to be used to finance the vacations.

But the company lost money when customs agents in France determined some of the jeans were counterfeit and confiscated them.

Defense attorney Bob Copier said that many of those who purchased travel packages had "valid complaints" against Parrish, but said such matters should be handled in civil court. Although contracts have been breached, he said, Parrish is not responsible for any criminal wrongdoing.

Copier said the buyers should have known about the inherent risks that accompany every contract agreement. Parrish intended to provide the trips and never tried to hide the fact that the money was being used to purchase Levi's, he said.

Page, however, disagreed. "He had a specific scheme in mind," she said. "He wasn't out to sell travel. His business was investments."

Parrish was ordered to appear before 3rd District Judge Richard Moffat on March 20.