Monday, March 29, 2010

Feds: Fake FBI Agent 'Hired' Neighbors

Authorities say a Virginia woman pretended to be an FBI agent and conned her neighbors into taking jobs as her assistants.

Twenty-nine-year-old Brenna Reilly of Arlington was indicted by a federal grand jury in Alexandria last week on a charge of impersonating an FBI agent.

According to a court affidavit, Reilly told neighbors in her apartment complex that she was the FBI's director of forensics. Two of those neighbors say they agreed to work as Reilly's assistant and put personal information such as their Social Security numbers on phony job applications.

She gave the assistants tasks that included writing condolence letters to family members of agents killed in the line of duty. But authorities say Reilly was never an FBI agent.

GOP To Recoup $1,950 Spent At Topless Club

The Republican National Committee spent thousands of dollars last month on private jets, car services, high-end hotels and other expenses.

The committee said it will be reimbursed for a particularly questionable outlay: $1,950 for meals at a Hollywood sex-themed club that features topless dancers. RNC spokesman Doug Heye said the donor and vendor who organized the non-sanctioned event at Voyeur West Hollywood will repay the amount.

Other expenses reported in February included more than $17,000 for private jets and nearly $13,000 for car services. Heye said such services are used only when needed.

TD Ameritrade Pays $304M In Securities Settlement

Online brokerage TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. will repurchase roughly $300 million in auction-rate securities from investors to comply with a settlement announced last summer.

Ameritrade said in a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission Monday that its customers had asked the Omaha-based firm to repurchase $304 million before the deadlines passed.

Auction-rate securities are instruments that resemble corporate debt whose interest rates were reset at regular auctions. They were marketed as being safe as cash, but the market for them fell apart in early 2008 amid the downturn in the credit markets.

Last fall, Ameritrade officials predicted the company would repurchase between $260 million and $320 million in auction-rate securities.

Princess Di Items Go Up For Auction

Rare antiques from the ancestral home of Diana, Princess of Wales -- including a 12 million pound ($18 million) Rubens portrait from the 17th Century -- will be offered for sale this summer, an auction house said Monday.

Christie's auction house said it will sell about 20 million pounds ($30 million) worth of artifacts from Althorp House, in Northamptonshire, central England.

Althorp -- Diana's childhood home and the site of her burial following her 1997 death -- is now occupied by Diana's brother Earl Charles Spencer. He recently announced his engagement to Lady Bianca Eliot, who will become his third wife.

The auction house said the Spencer family hoped to sell off a variety of valuables to invest the funds raised and protect the long-term future of the stately home.

While none of the lots were purchased by Diana, many have been in her family for centuries -- including the Rubens portrait, "Commander Being Armed for Battle," owned by the Spencer family since 1802.

The portrait was painted in 1613 and 1614 and depicts a bearded man, believed to be the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, being fitted with his armor.

"This magnificent work by Rubens is one of the most important works by the artist to remain in private hands in the U.K.," said Richard Knight, of Christie's. "It is a museum-quality masterpiece and will have wide international appeal."

Other lots include English and French furniture, a mid-17th Century painting by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri and 19th Century horse-drawn carriages.

Christie's said three auctions will take place in London during the summer.

Superman Comic Sells For Record Amount

The record price for a comic book, already broken twice this year, has been shattered again. A copy of the 1938 edition of Action Comics No. 1 sold Monday for $1.5 million on the auction Web site The issue, which features Superman's debut and originally sold for 10 cents, is widely considered the Holy Grail of comic books.

The same issue sold in February for $1 million, though that copy wasn't in as good condition as the issue that sold Monday. That number was bested just days later when a 1939 comic book featuring Batman's debut sold for $75,000 more at an auction in Dallas.

There are about 100 copies of Action Comics No. 1 believed to be in existence, and only a handful in good condition. The issue that sold Monday was rated slightly higher than the one that sold in February; it had been tucked inside an old movie magazine for years before being discovered.

The issue was bought from a private collector and then sold by Stephen Fishler and Vincent Zurzolo, the co-owners of It was bought minutes after being posted Monday at the asking price of $1.5 million by "a hardcore comic book fan," Fishler said.

"There's been a lot of attempts to acquire this book over the last 15 years," he said. "The recent activity, I guess, did the trick."

Fishler speculated that the sudden burst of record-priced sales are due to "pent-up demand." Issues of such prized comic books rarely become available for purchase. Rarer still are issues in such good condition.

"I can't imagine another book coming on the market that exists that would top this," Fishler said. "This may be the final say -- at least for the next 10 or 20 years - for a record price of a comic book."

Recent Quakes

Time Magnitude Location
2 hours ago 3.8 Washington Map
Yesterday 5.9 Offshore Maule, Chile Map
Yesterday 4.2 Gulf of California Map

AP; Reuters; SEC; USGS

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