Kazeminy questions credibility of ex-associate

His comment was about B.J. Thomas, who has said Kazeminy tried to funnel money to a firm that employed Norm Coleman's wife.

Nasser Kazeminy, a businessman and friend of Norm Coleman, on Friday issued a statement questioning the credibility of a former associate who said Kazeminy tried to funnel $100,000 to a company that employed Coleman's wife.

The statement by Kazeminy's spokeswoman in Minneapolis said that B.J. Thomas, the former chief financial officer of Houston-based Deep Marine Technology Inc., was fired because he failed to disclose a previous sanction by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The administrative proceeding against Thomas in 1997 prevented him from performing certain accounting activities.

Thomas, a former conservative radio talk show host, was CFO at Deep Marine from 2002 to December 2007.

Thomas stated in a sworn deposition March 19 that he had informed Kazeminy of his situation with the SEC in "2004, 2005." He said he informed Deep Marine CEO Paul McKim of the situation in 2001, before his appointment as finance chief of the company.

Neither Kazeminy nor McKim voiced any concerns over his SEC sanction, Thomas said in his deposition. But in December 2007, Thomas said, he was asked to resign from Deep Marine for reasons related to his limitations with the SEC.

Kazeminy, a wealthy Iranian-born businessman, and his spokeswoman, Amy Rotenberg, refused to comment further Friday.

The statement said Thomas was fired for not disclosing the SEC sanction, so "it is, therefore, not surprising that both Mr. Thomas and Mr. McKim would participate in disseminating these inaccurate and untruthful comments in order to pursue their own financial gain."

The Star Tribune obtained a copy of Thomas' deposition corroborating some allegations in a lawsuit McKim filed last year after he left the company at odds with Kazeminy, who had a controlling financial interest. McKim's lawsuit alleges that Kazeminy directed Deep Marine to pay Minneapolis insurance agency Hays Companies $100,000 to benefit Norm and Laurie Coleman.

In his deposition, Thomas recounts a phone conversation with Kazeminy in March 2007 in which Kazeminy purportedly lamented the amount of money Coleman was paid as a senator. Thomas said in his deposition that Kazeminy told him he wanted to use Laurie Coleman at Hays in relation to a consulting services contract that Kazeminy directed be established with Hays.

Just as McKim alleged in his lawsuit, Thomas said in his deposition that he was not aware of any insurance consulting services that Deep Marine received from Hays in return for the payments. Thomas could not be reached Friday. His attorney, Charley Davidson of Houston, did not immediately return a call.

Laurie Coleman was hired by Hays in 2006 as an independent contractor. She and her husband have denied ever receiving money sent from Deep Marine to Hays.

Hays has not disputed that it received $75,000 under the Deep Marine contract (McKim said he blocked a fourth $25,000 payment), but Hays said nothing about its business relationship with Deep Marine was improper. Hays also has insisted that none of the money went to the Colemans.

McKim's lawsuit against Deep Marine alleges that Kazeminy wasted corporate funds in several ways. The company's board of directors formed a special litigation committee to investigate. Thomas' deposition was part of that process.

Kazeminy is a resident of Palm Beach, Fla., whose flagship company, NJK Holdings, is based in Bloomington. Friday's statement by his spokesperson said that Deep Marine's corporate investigation should be completed by mid-April, adding that "we fully expect that the report will demonstrate that any and all amounts paid to Hays Insurance were wholly proper and legitimate.''

tonyk@startribune.com • 612-673-4213 pmcenroe@startribune.com 612-673-1745

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