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Convicted con artist turned pastor Barry Minkow, relaxed and talking Scripture with his attorney in court, appeared before a federal magistrate today on a charge of conspiring to drive down the stock of Miami home-builder Lennar. Minkow’s false reports are blamed for driving down Lennar’s share price 20 percent in 2009. Minkow became famous in the early 1990s for propping up the stock of his carpet-cleaning business ZZZZ Best through a bogus insurance restoration sideline. He ended up doing seven years in prison before pronouncing himself reformed, starting an anti-fraud business and becoming pastor of a San Diego church and an informant. Minkow, who is the process of moving to Tennessee from San Diego after resigning from the church, pleaded guilty this afternoon before U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz in Miami. The plea agreement spells out Minkow’s cooperation agreement with prosecutors, including making himself available to go undercover if necessary. It also goes into great detail about how Minkow was hired and worked with “co-conspirator A,” which Lennar identified as San Diego developer Nicolas Marsch. Marsch unsuccessfully sued Lennar in a business dispute over a California development and, according to the plea agreement, threatened to air “dirty little secrets” about company executives if they didn’t give him money. Minkow surrendered on the securities fraud conspiracy charged and faces up to five years in prison. Prosecutors have agreed to a $50,000 bond. Marsch’s attorney, Richard Van Dyke οf La Jolla, California, said he had not seen the plea agreement and had no comment. John Pacenti can be reached at (305) 347-6638.

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