Personal Finance

Illinois man admits to ‘Star Trek’ fraud

‘Star Trek’ fraud

An Illinois man who persuaded a company to finance a nonexistent telemedicine computer tablet named after the physician on the original “Star Trek” television show admitted to a $25 million fraud scheme.

Howard Leventhal, 56, pleaded guilty Monday in Brooklyn to wire fraud for falsely claiming that his company, Neovision, had a contract with the Canadian department of health. Leventhal, of Long Grove, Ill., faces up to 22 years in prison, according to the office of U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.

Leventhal told investors his company had agreements to provide Canada with a telemedicine device named after Leonard McCoy, the starship doctor portrayed by DeForest Kelley, prosecutors said. He used the fake pacts to get Fort Lauderdale-based Paragon Financial Group Inc. to give him $800,000 in exchange for the right to collect money that he said the Canadian government owed him, according to the U.S.

“Within this alternate reality, Leventhal marketed nonexistent technology, fabricated an online presence and impersonated a government official, all to defraud investors out of very real money,” Lynch said.

Upgrade costs

Americans spend $5.4 billion a year to upgrade their iPhones, according to a study by, which tracks data from 20 trade-in companies.

The average iPhone upgrade costs $151 every two years, about $21 more than the average smartphone upgrade costs.

Hot items

Headphones, speakers and other audio gear are topping the holiday gift lists of many Americans.

Audio equipment is among the top-selling electronics gifts this holiday season, accounting for 13 percent of the $8 billion in consumer electronics sales between Nov. 24 and Dec. 7, according to research firm NPD Group.

Headphone sales rose 14 percent. Sales of sound bars — long, thin speakers that create surround sound — grew 80 percent. And wireless speaker sales nearly quadrupled.

Positive vibes

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final index of consumer sentiment in December climbed to 82.5 from 75.1 a month earlier.

The index averaged 89 in the five years leading up to the slump that began in December 2007 and 64.2 during the 18-month recession that ended in June 2009.