Man in the shadows Nerve: His history of legal troubles gave William P. Trainor good reason to mask his involvement in Novatek.

February 16, 1997|By Mark Hyman and Mark Guidera | Mark Hyman and Mark Guidera,SUN STAFF

As investigators unravel the Novatek case, one man figures prominently in the probe: William P. Trainor, a gutsy, high-energy pitchman with a long history of legal troubles.

Trainor, 60, is connected to a family trust and company that were given millions in shares of the reinvented Novatek.

But he was careful to veil his connection to the company, which valued its exclusive license to distribute medical test kits at $54 million and claimed it had landed large contracts for them.

Trainor held no office with Novatek, and so he wasn't required to tell all.

Under SEC regulations, only directors and officers of publicly held corporations need disclose "material information" about their backgrounds, including legal records and relationships with competing businesses.

Trainor had good reason to veil his ties.

He has been convicted of fraud at least twice and of transporting stolen goods; he spent two years in a federal penitentiary in Florida, according to court records.

While Trainor's ventures have grown increasingly sophisticated, he has time and again shown a brazen willingness to fabricate official looking zoning and other documents, forge signatures, steal and use other companies' letterhead, and misrepresent agreements he has struck, court records show.

He has little reluctance to file lawsuits.

He also has a knack for duping unsuspecting people. His victims run the gamut from sophisticated investors to a group of nuns.

"I'd have to say he's pretty good at doing what he does -- getting money out of people one way or another," said Jeffrey R. Power, a Cohaset, Mass., businessman who sued Trainor after losing $50,000 in a dubious Maine landfill project.

Over 30 years, Trainor has had numerous careers: homebuilder, landfill entrepreneur, even the power behind a New York City brokerage firm.

In each line of work, Trainor has left behind angry business associates and embittered investors.

One of the angriest is Gordon Ritz of Wayzata, Minn., who saw a $150,000 investment disappear 10 years ago.

Ritz calls Trainor "a pathological liar -- totally, entirely, 100 percent."

"You can't do what he has done and not have something missing," Ritz said.

"A normal person would be guilt-ridden."

Trainor did not respond to repeated requests to be interviewed.

Theodore Sonde, a lawyer representing Trainor in the SEC probe, said he could not answer questions about Trainor's legal past.

Since his early years, Trainor has been flouting authority. At 19, he was court-martialed and dishonorably discharged from the Army.

Back in civilian life, he worked in the construction trades in New England.

In the mid-1970s, Trainor was again in trouble. He pleaded guilty in state and federal court to two fraud charges.

One conviction grew out of Trainor's term as chairman of a planning board in a small Boston suburb.

Trainor wanted the planning board to allow him to sell 57 residential lots he owned, but he needed to show he had money for roads and sewers.

Trainor settled on an inspired, if dishonest, plan, obtaining letterhead from Boston Five Cents Savings Bank and forging the signature of a bank official to a letter that stated the bank was withholding $100,000 in loan funds for the improvements.

He gave the planning board the letter, inducing it to vote in his favor, court records show.

In February 1976, Trainor received a suspended sentence with two years' probation for the scheme.

Three months later, he received a second suspended sentence and was ordered to perform weekly community service after pleading guilty to two counts of making false statements on loan applications, according to court records.

Trainor borrowed nearly $800,000 from First National Bank of Boston, using as collateral three pieces of machinery he didn't own, court records show.

The financial statement used in the transaction was a fake. A certified public accountant's signature was also forged.

Two years later, in 1978, a court found he'd violated his probation -- in a typically inventive fashion.

Trainor had agreed to work 10 hours of weekly community service at St. Charles Children's Home in Rochester, N.H.

Officers monitoring Trainor's probation received seven letters from the order of nuns that ran the home, seeming to verify his service.

Later, probation officials discovered those letters were fakes, too.

The four nuns whose names appeared on the letters had never been at St. Charles Children's Home.

The stationery used to write the letters also was counterfeit, according to court records.

Calling the violations "very bizarre," a federal judge sentenced Trainor to two years in federal prison in Florida.

Earlier that year, while he was still free on probation, Trainor was arrested by the FBI in Florida for conspiracy and transporting stolen goods across state lines -- in this case heavy construction equipment.

He was convicted and given six months, which he served concurrently with the sentence for violating probation.

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