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PHAR-MOR INC. WILL CLOSE ITS 3 UTAH STORES

Phar-Mor Inc., the Ohio-based discount drug chain that entered the Utah market this year with three new stores, will permanently close those stores next month, the company announced Friday.

The closures are part of a shutdown of 63 Phar-Mor stores in 14 states that a Phar-Mor spokeswoman said is part of an effort to cut costs and return the chain to profitability.Phar-Mor has been operating under Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy protection since last month after the drug chain's chief executive officer publicly alleged that the company had been the victim of a "fraud and embezzlement scheme" by its former president, Michael Monus, and former chief financial officer, Patrick Finn.

Scheduled for closure in Utah are the Phar-Mor stores that opened in February in the Family Center at Midvalley in the Taylorsville-Bennion area of Salt Lake County, and in the Newgate Mall in Ogden. The Phar-Mor in the Family Center in Orem, which opened in March, will also close. The company was scheduled to open a new store at Brickyard Plaza in October, but that has been canceled.

The chain currently operates 309 stores. It will initially close 36 stores, including the three in Utah, by the first week of October, followed by the remaining 27, whose locations will be announced in two weeks, said Carol Robinson, a spokeswoman for the company. She said some stores will have "going out of business" sales but it isn't yet known if the Utah stores will be among them.

The "deep discount" Phar-Mor stores sell prescriptions, housewares, cosmetics, auto parts and nonperishable groceries. The chain discontinued its sportswear, office electronics and office furniture departments following the disclosures last month.

Local Phar-Mor executives could not be reached for comment on how many jobs will be lost by the closures, but the company said at the opening of the new stores that each would eventually create about 100 full- and part-time jobs. However, the company said Friday that a total of 2,200 jobs would be lost by the 63 closures, or an average of 35 jobs per store.

Davis S. Shapira, Phar-Mor's chief executive officer, fired Monus, co-founder of the chain with Shapira a decade ago, and Finn on Aug. 5, saying an internal investigation had discovered that more than $10 million had been embezzled by overstating the company's earnings and then diverting funds. The company then wrote off $350 million to cover losses. No charges have been filed but a criminal investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office is said to be under way

Monus filed for personal bankruptcy protection on Friday saying he had no money to pay his bills. He has not publicly commented on Shapira's claims citing advice of his attorneys.

Phar-Mor has also filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania against its former auditor, Coopers & Lybrand, saying the firm failed to uncover the alleged fraud. The accounting firm has countersued, saying the company is trying to divert attention from Shapira and its directors.

Other states in which Phar-Mor stores will close include Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The company said the 246 stores that will remain after the closures are either currently profitable or can be made so. It said profitability, store age, competitive market position and geographic location were the main factors in deciding which stores to close.