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November 22, 2002

Audiologists sue accountant who handled investments

From: Akron Beacon Journal, OH
Nov. 22, 2002

Associated Press

AKRON, Ohio - An accountant who handled thousands of dollars of audiologists' investments is suspected of taking their money and going to Switzerland.

Bruce Baskin, 59, of Bath Township, who had sole control of the audiologists' investments, retired in July.

He directed Merrill Lynch, the firm where the money was invested, to transfer an undetermined amount out of six funds, leaving about $1.1 million, the investment firm says.

Baskin formed Audiology Co-op Inc. in 1983 to provide volume-purchase discounts on hearing aids and related equipment and services. Baskin then invested a portion of the profits for the audiologists.

According to a lawsuit filed by Merrill Lynch in U.S. District Court, Baskin told officials at the firm that "he would be moving to an undisclosed location in Switzerland, and that he would not be returning to the United States."

Merrill Lynch has not said how much money was transferred.

But one North Carolina audiologist who joined nine others in a lawsuit against Baskin said he is out at least $70,000. He is one of 400 customers in 47 states.

Ten audiologists and their companies filed a lawsuit against Baskin and his companies in Summit County Common Pleas Court on Nov. 13. They hope to freeze the profits from the sale of Baskin's purchasing cooperative.

The cooperative, through which Baskin received the money he invested, has been closed, and the contents of its Akron office were auctioned off Monday. Baskin's $270,000 ranch home and its contents were to be auctioned on Friday.

Merrill Lynch, which handled the investments, filed a complaint in U.S. District Court on Monday arguing that it should not be held liable for any funds due to the audiologists.

© 2002 AKron Beacon Journal