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AOL case complicates Stuart Wolff retrial

Former Homestore exec's lawyers question impact of SEC lawsuit

The government's plans to retry former Homestore CEO Stuart Wolff for his alleged involvement in circular advertising deals that led the company to restate millions in earnings could be complicated by charges that AOL executives who testified in Wolff's first trial were involved in other, bigger schemes. Wolff's 2006 fraud conviction and 15-year prison sentence were overturned last year, when an appeals court ruled that the judge presiding over the case should have disqualified himself because he owned stock in America Online (see story). AOL allegedly served as the intermediary for 17 of 23 "roundtrip" advertising deals with Homestore vendors, which Homestore later said artificially inflated 2001 earnings by $67 million. Homestore -- the Realtor.com operator that rebranded as Move Inc. -- allegedly overpaid vendors for products. The vendors would take the excess profits and buy something from a third-party intermediary like AOL, which would then advertise on Ho...

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