A judge today set bond for a couple accused of swindling Columbus’ Mikata Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar owners out of more than $3 million at roughly that same amount: $3 million.
Superior Court Judge John Allen set bonds of $1.5 million each for Michael K. Bleckley and Phillis M. Bleckley of Richland, Ga., after their attorney, Frank Martin, argued that area businesses the two own would suffer if the Bleckleys remained in jail.
Prosecutor Alonza Whitaker argued the Bleckleys might flee if released. He said the husband has a pilot’s license, and records of the Bleckleys’ business activities indicate they may have $1 million in an account in the United Kingdom.
Martin countered that the two have children; they have no passports; and Michael Bleckley is in poor health – among his ailments hypertension, congestive heart failure, diabetes and diverticulitis.
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Their businesses could go under or otherwise be adversely affected by their continued absence, Martin said: “It’s kind of like collapsing the whole show if they can’t get out and make bond…. I think a lot of people would be injured by that.”
Outside the courtroom, Whitaker said the Georgia businesses in which the Bleckleys have invested include the popular Bulloch House restaurant in Warm Springs, Tante Funeral Home in Buena Vista, Smith Funeral Home in Richland, Legendary Performance Cars in Meriwether County and a 170-acre pecan orchard straddling the Webster-Stewart County line.
Most of the businesses would not suffer because court-appointed financial managers are running them, Whitaker said. He said the prosecution believes the Bleckleys used the Mikata owners’ money to make such investments for their own personal profit.
The allegations against the Bleckleys are that as MKB Capital Management, they since 2000 have taken $3,408,703 from the Kim family that runs Mikata, claiming to have invested it with good returns. They met with the Kims quarterly at the restaurant to present financial reports, at one point stating that a terrorist attack in the Middle East had increased the return on investments, Whitaker said.
When the Kims finally tried to get their money, the Bleckleys changed their company name and said the money had gone into a software research firm expected to bring in a return of $18 million, the prosecutor said.
In 2007, an Albany attorney representing the Bleckleys told the Kims that their money had been a loan, not an investment, Whitaker said. That triggered a criminal investigation, he said, noting that paperwork showed the Kims were charged investment fees inconsistent with a loan.Over the years, the only return the Kims got was about $145,000 in interest, Whitaker said.
The Bleckleys, both in their 50s, were arrested Aug. 19. They face charges of conspiring to commit theft, failing to register as broker-dealers and violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly called “the RICO Act.”
While setting bonds of $1.5 million each, Allen also ordered that the Bleckleys not apply for passports and not fly an airplane nor allow anyone else to fly them.