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Investment firm manager surrenders on theft charges

The general manager of embattled investments company Premier Benefit Capital Trust has turned herself in on charges of grand theft and fraud amid a state investigation of the company.

But through a company spokesman, Jan S. Weeks, 49, of Clearwater, denied any wrongdoing in what authorities call her theft of $15,000 from an elderly Hernando County woman who invested in the company's products.

"At this moment, they have no case against Jan," said Harry W. "Bill" Marrero, trustee and spokesman for Premier Benefit. "This warrant is bogus."

Weeks could not be reached for comment. Marrero returned a reporter's call placed to her Clearwater home.

Marrero said that Weeks _ who also goes by Jan Weeks-Katona _ turned herself in to authorities in neighboring Hillsborough County late Thursday because she wanted to find out why the warrant was issued. Weeks was released on $10,000 bond from the Hillsborough County jail shortly after she turned herself in.

According to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, Weeks, through Premier Benefit, is charged with taking $15,000 last year from a Hernando woman in exchange for a promissory note and a return on the investment of as much as 74.9 percent. The woman told a Sheriff's Office detective she never received the quarterly statements she was supposed to get for the investment and could not reach Weeks to try and get her money back.

"This was all of her money," said detective Hal Enders. "She hasn't seen it since."

Marrero said the woman has not seen her money because her investment has not reached its maturity date.

Premier Benefit trustees have declined to talk about the specifics of their investments, other than to say they are contracts that are backed either by the government or insurance companies. The company has said it makes as much as $2-million per day in the Tampa Bay area alone.

The state comptroller's office thinks the company may be selling illegal securities, and _ like agencies in several other states _ has sued unsuccessfully to force Premier Benefit to produce financial documents.

Ray Lemme, area financial manager in Tampa for the comptroller's office, said his agency is still investigating the company, but declined to comment on the charges against Weeks.