Monday, April 9, 2007

A New Low for Women in NASCAR

As a writer with a NASCAR romance in the works...I couldn't have imagined something this crazy...

A former stripper-turned-NASCAR-owner who has been sought by U.S. authorities
for three years was arrested in New York on Sunday after agreeing to

Angela Harkness surrenders to authorities in New York
By By Joshunda Sanders

Fatemeh Angela Harkness was taken into custody as soon as her flight from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, touched down at JFK International Airport in New York, said Timothy Hughes, a spokesman for the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force.

Authorities accused Harkness and Gary Jones, a former Wells Fargo business banker, of using about $1 million obtained through fraudulent bank loans to start a NASCAR team called Angela's Motorsports, which they ran out of Harkness' Round Rock home. The racing team entered cars in the Busch Grand National Series starting in 2002. It disappeared in 2003 after the team's checks started bouncing.

Jones prepared about 12 loans using several people's names and kept the money for himself, according to court documents. He was sentenced to just less than four years in prison in August 2004 after he pleaded guilty to fraud, theft and embezzlement charges.

The Iranian-born Harkness admitted in January 2004 that she conspired with Jones to embezzle the money from his bank between 2000 and 2003. She was convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud in 2004 and awaiting sentencing when she fled the country while free on bond.

Officials in the United Arab Emirates arrested her in May 2005, then released her. She has been in legal limbo ever since because the United States and the United Arab Emirates do not have an extradition treaty. Officials there seized her passportand would not let her leave the country, but they would not send her back to the United States against her will either.

Hughes said Harkness finally decided to come back voluntarily. "She called U.S. Marshals and said, 'I'm tired of this, I'm sick of being over here. If you can get me back there, I'll serve my time,' " Hughes said.

Hector Gomez, a spokesman for the Lone Star Task Force, said Harkness called him 10 days ago. "Unless she returned to her native Iran, she would've been landlocked."He said Harkness flew back with her 6-year-old daughter, who will be cared for by relatives. Harkness will likely face charges for violating her bond and
fleeing the country, Hughes said.

According to Gomez, U.S. Marshals arranged to have Harkness flownto New York. She was met by Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents and U.S. Marshals.
Harkness will have to go before a judge in New York before she is extradited to Austin.

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