Ex-Telegraph owner Conrad Black ordered to begin jail by Monday after losing appeal


Last updated at 19:49 29 February 2008

Disgraced newspaper tycoon Conrad Black will go to prison on Monday after losing an attempt to remain free while appealing against his conviction.

The shamed press baron must report to Coleman federal facility in Florida to begin a six-and-a half-year sentence for fraud and obstructing justice.

The former Daily Telegraph owner, once dubbed the Lord of Excess, will sleep in a dormitory and earn only £10 a month for prison work.

Judges in Chicago yesterday rejected his argument that he should remain free because his convictions were likely to be overturned on appeal.

Black was found guilty on July 13 last year of defrauding £3million from the shareholders of Hollinger International, the newspaper group he founded and headed for three decades. He was sentenced in December.

"Defendant Black must report to prison on or before March 3, as required by the district court's order," a three-judge panel in Chicago ruled yesterday.

The 62-year-old will be inmate 18330-424 at Coleman, which is about 170 miles from his home in South Ocean Boulevard, Palm Beach.

It represents an amazing fall from grace for the peer who enjoyed multi-million pound spending sprees on jewellery and clothes.

Black will be taken to the jail's low-security facility, which houses 2000 inmates. It is part of a large complex that includes other more secure facilities.

On entering, he will have to strip, will be searched, given a medical, then issued with prison clothing - plain white and grey t-shirts and khaki pants.

The only items allowed inside the jail initially are a wedding ring, prescription glasses, empty prescription bottles, a soft cover religious text, a religious medallion valued under £50, loose leaf legal documents and identification.

He will be given a place in a dormitory where there are partitioned cubicles with a bed, a chair and a locker.

Each inmate is assigned a job, starting at 7.30am, which could be cutting grass, painting or laundry duties. Black will make around £10 to £15 a month but can have extra placed in an account.

Former inmates advise new prisoners need approximately £150 to get set up, to buy trainers, locks and toiletry items. Spending is limited to about £150 a month.

There are also educational facilities and inmates have access to e-mail and a library.

Inmates can spend time in the yard, which has few sporting amenities beyond a softball diamond and a basketball hoop, or inside playing board games.

The regime is described as fairly relaxed but movement is controlled. Inmates have five minutes to get from one area of the prison to another and can only move once every hour. Most of the inmates are non-violent offenders, many of them serving time for drug related offences. There are a number of white collar inmates.

But there are also a couple of fairly well known mob figures in Coleman, including Salvatore Locascio, a New York Gambino family member, Dapper John Gotti's crew, and Michael Flemmi, who was connected to Whitey Bulger's Boston mob, made famous by the film The Departed.

Black's wife, Barbara Amiel, will be given a 20-page booklet of regulations when she makes her first visit. The couple will be able to kiss and embrace only at the beginning of every visit.

Strict clothing rules are in place, with nothing provocative allowed -- no plunging necklines, leotards, wraparound skirts, crop tops, low-cut blouses or dresses, backless or halter tops or low-cut jeans. Dresses higher than two inches above the top of the knee are banned.

Each visitor has nine points of visiting time a month; a week day equates to one point, a weekend to three.

At his trial, prosecutor Eric Sussman projected Black's bank statement for one week in November 2000 on a giant video screen facing the jury.

He had splashed out more than £1.3million on a Graff diamond ring, £300,000 on a brooch, £40,000 at fashion designer Balmain, £50,000 at fashion chain Fendi, £20,000 at David Linley furniture and £110,000 at Yves Saint Laurent.

As Mr Sussman exclaimed with a theatrical sigh: "There are some days when the numbers get so high that you just have to dump a bucket of iced water over your head,"

Black also used the company jet to whisk Barbara Amiel away on holiday to the French Polynesian island of Bora Bora at an estimated cost of £250,000.

Black and his co-defendants were convicted on July 13 of siphoning by falsely claiming non compete payments from buyers of Hollinger companies.

Non-compete payments are sometimes made by buyers of newspapers in exchange for promises from the sellers not to return to the same circulation area and compete with the new owners. But prosecutors argued that Black was essentially just dipping into the shareholders' money.


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