Barry Minkow heads back to prison
Barry Minkow's twisting road through life will carry the former San Fernando Valley teen tycoon back to prison Wednesday to serve his second sentence for securities fraud.
In an email to The Times, Minkow said federal prison authorities had ordered him to begin his five-year sentence at a Lexington, Ky., facility that "from the outside looks like Leavenworth Penitentiary" rather than the minimum-security prison camp he had hoped for and a judge had recommended.
Minkow burst onto the national stage in the 1980s after starting ZZZZ Best, a carpet-cleaning company, in his parents' garage in Reseda. He wound up spending more than seven years in prison after it was revealed that ZZZZ Best was a sham built on credit-card fraud and fabricated work orders.
Expressing remorse, he reinvented himself as head pastor at San Diego's Community Bible Church and founded the Fraud Discovery Institute, a detective shop that set out to expose Ponzi schemes and corporate wrongdoing.
But in March he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to damage Lennar Corp. by attacking the Miami-based home builder in reports he acknowledged were filled with falsehoods. He had been hired by a San Diego County developer whose partnership with Lennar in Rancho Santa Fe had soured.
Minkow told U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz in Miami that he had become addicted to narcotic painkillers he used to treat his migraine headaches, finally kicking the habit when he realized he was under criminal investigation.
He also told the judge that abusing steroids as a teenage weight lifter had rendered him unable to produce sperm or testosterone, saying he needs constant treatments to limit his body's production of the female hormone estrogen.
Seitz granted his request to be placed in a prison program for treating addiction. She also recommended that Minkow be placed in a work camp at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, but the federal Bureau of Prisons decided camp wasn't appropriate.
"The Feds found a way to be a bit punitive and put me in an 'administrative medical facility' which houses inmates of all levels," Minkow said in his email.
His attorney, Alvin Entin, said the decision was made because of "mental issues" as well as Minkow's "physical problems."
In any case, Minkow said, "I deserve it and will be fine."
He noted that the prison is much nearer to the small town in Tennessee where he has lived recently with his wife and two adopted sons.
"Lisa and the boys will have a much easier time driving three and a half hours rather than eight hours to Maxwell," Minkow said.
--E. Scott Reckard
Photo: Barry Minkow in his church office, 2009. Credit: Bloomberg / Sandy Huffaker