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JURY DISAGREES ON ALL 126 COUNTS AGAINST FIRED PHAR-MOR PRESIDENT

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A jury deadlocked Thursday on all 126 counts against ousted Phar-Mor Inc. president Michael Monus on charges that he looted millions of dollars from the discount drugstore chain he founded.

The 10 women and two men on the U.S. District Court jury could not agree fully on any of the counts, defense attorney Gerald Messerman said.Phar-Mor ceased operations in Utah not long after the charges were filed.

U.S. District Judge George White dismissed the jury.

Monus faced 115 counts of money laundering, four counts of wire fraud, two counts each of bank fraud, mail fraud and filing false income tax returns and one count of conspiracy.

Monus, 46, declined to comment on the hung jury.

His father, Nathan, who was in court for most of the 17-day trial, said he could not comment. "It's too emotional for me," he said.

Lawyers for both sides will confer with the judge on July 18. If Monus is to be retried, a date would be set then, White said.

Monus was accused of diverting more than $10 million from Phar-Mor to prop up the World Basketball League, his failed minor-league basketball venture, and stealing more than $500,000 for his own use.

The government said Monus used inflated inventory figures to hide the thefts and conceal huge operating losses at Youngstown-based Phar-Mor. Phony financial statements were used to swindle investors out of more than $1 billion, prosecutors said.

The defense said Monus was betrayed by his subordinates. It contended that they mounted the fraud without Monus' knowledge, then tried to pin the mess on him when things got out of hand.

"We're sorry we don't have 126 not-guilty verdicts but it's less disappointing than having 126 guilty counts," Messerman said.

If convicted on all counts, Monus faced a maximum of what amounted to life in prison and $37.5 million in fines.

One juror, Cheryl A. McRae, 39, of Youngstown, said jurors "disagreed on all counts."

The trial began May 31 - 22 months to the day after Monus, former chief financial officer Patrick Finn and former vice president for finance Jeffrey Walley were fired. Finn and Walley pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme and testifed against Monus.

Messerman rested his case without calling any witnesses, saying prosecutors failed to meet the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In closing arguments, he asked jurors not to believe Finn, the government's chief witness, whom he called a liar.

Monus and the others were fired in late July 1992. A few weeks later, Phar-Mor sought protection from creditors in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The company has estimated its losses from the fraud at about $499 million.

Phar-Mor, once one of the nation's fastest-growing pharmacy chains, has closed roughly half of the 300 stores it operated nationwide at its peak and has laid off thousands of employees.