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The Atlanta Constitution from Atlanta, Georgia • 17

Atlanta, Georgia
Issue Date:
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Storms across Florida cause flooding, power outagesfire officials said. Tornado watches were in ty was struck by lightning about mid The Associated Press Police Department National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Duval said heaQr rains caused flooding of small urban streams and ditches in the Panhandle, closing several stretches of highway. Flooding along the Apalachicola and Chipola rivers Saturday evening forced the evacuation of several homes along creeks that feed the Chipola, said Don Shepherd of the weather service. effect until late Saturday night from the western tip of the Panhandle down through central Florida. High winds were reported at Disney World, and seas of up to 10 feet were crashing off Cape Canaveral Heavy rain and thunderstorms extended 75 miles into the Gulf of Mexico and 100 miles into the Atlantic in some places.

Sneads High School in Jackson Coun night Friday, causing a fire that burned most of the one-story, three-wing building to the ground, but there were no injuries in the blaze, police said. Firefighters from Sneads and neighboring areas battled the blaze for nine hours and were only able to save a cafeteria, the gymnasium, the band room and the library-guidance office complex, said Sgt William Nelson of the Sneads Violent thunderstorms swept across North and Central Florida on Saturday, causing widespread flooding, power outages and a blaze that destroyed a high school. Heavy rain hit the Panhandle region Friday afternoon and moved slowly east across the state, dumping up to 7 inches in some areas, National Weather Service Tut treasure a long-sized art swindle The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. It was billed as the world-famous $100 million King Tut art collection a series of Egyptian-style paintings encrusted with diamonds, rubies, sapphires and But police say the collection appears to be nothing more than painted canvases with pieces of glass, tinfoil and worthless stones glued on. Top' value: $30,000.

Detectives seized dozens of the paintings, including a "King Tut Death Mask," in connection with an art scam that took investors across the country for hundreds of thousands of dollars, police said. The artwork was taken from the Plantation, home of artist William Verdult, 51, who was arrested on grand theft and fraud charges after he claimed $1 million worth of paintings had been stolen from his gallery. "I was totally devastated," said Michelle West, 40, a Fort Lauderdale woman who was persuaded to give Mr. Verdult a $65,000 diamond to put in his King Tut Death Mask painting as an investment. "I admired him.

I used to think he was the most wonderful person in the world." Mr. Verdult told police Feb. 10 that 25 to 30 of his paintings had been stolen. Police found no signs of forced entry into the building. i HI i Only at Rich's, es.

special rnvueg yours at no extra charge with any Estee Lauder. purchase of 2.50 or more Detectives Patricia lruetie and Stephen Ruebottom now suspect that Mr. Verdult staged the theft to defraud Ms. West and her friend, John Melkonian, 35, who lost $15,000, Detective Truetle said. The detectives found some of the missing paintings at Mr.

Ver-dult's home Wednesday night. He was being held in the Broward County Jail in lieu of $85,000 bail. The King Tut Death Mask appears to contain semiprecious or almost worthless stones that Mr." Verdult claimed were valued at up to $13.5 million, police said, One licensed appraiser told detectives the whole collection probably is worth no more than $30,000. "The man is a good artist," Sgt. Robert Smith said.

"He has a painting in his house of his daughter that is really good. It seems to me that he has a lot of potential that he put to use in the wrong area." Detective, Truetle said Mr. Verdult showed potential investors phony appraisals and told them he was expecting big returns from the sale of his collection. She also said Mr. Verdult used phony gem appraisals to persuade an art appraisal firm to give an inflated value to the Tut collection.

Detective Truetle Mr. Verdult had been moving his paintings and the King Tut collection around the country, leaving unhappy investors in California and Nevada. Ms. West, a writer, said she met Mr. Verdult at a showing of his collection in Hollywood, last April.

She has a keen interest in ancient Egyptian lore and artwork and went to cover the show for a community newspaper. "I had been to Egypt and I loved Egypt," she said. "When I was there, I crawled into the User's gift collection of life's IlitS pleasures Incfudss: 2 full-size' all day lipsticks in Wild Coral ana Mocha Pink Future Perfect Micro-Targeted Skin Gel Instant Action Rinse-off Cleanser- Knowing EaudeParfum spray Quantities limited and one to a customer, please. is another special bonus from Estee Lauder. This private skincare and makeup consultation is a luxurious experience and at no extra charge.

Make ydur appointment the next time you're in. -Cosmetics D1 24 -all stores King Tut tomb. I decided I was going to name my children with Egpytian names." When she met Mr. Verdult, he commented on the jewelry she was wearing, she said. He persuaded Ms.

West to give him her diamond ring after he promised her a million-dollar return on her investment. He also told her that profits from the sale of the collection would go to help fulfill the wishes of dying children, she said. But Ms. West became suspicious when she asked for the diamond back and Mr. Verdult stalled.

"He started getting angry," she said. "It was scary. At that point, I knew I was being robbed." The diamond is missing from the death mask and has not been recovered. 0 (1 "vz cn cn 1 'tvfc 4.

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